Detect Evil?

Below is a description of a Detect Evil ability for the D&D Next Paladin.  My understanding of Next is that it won't be reliant on alignment for mechanics so I have taken the ability back to a 2nd ed AD&D style.  Please tell me what you think.  Is it broken, badly worded, too complex.  Tell me how you would alter it while keeping the intention to only detect hostile intentions rather than evil NPCs.  Sorry for the wall of text that it is.


At first level, a paladin gains an aura that extends in a 30 foot circle around them.  This aura penetrates through barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.


Every paladin no matter what calling they adhere to benefit from excellent awareness thanks to their aura.  You can feel the hostile intentions of creatures within the area of your aura.  The more hostile a creatures intentions the more aware you are of such hostility.  When a person tells you a lie you feel only a slightly disturbing affect such as the palms of your hands beginning to itch.  A creature wishing to hurt you might cause you real discomfort in the form of an ache in your chest. 


While you automatically become aware that there is a creature within your aura hostile towards you, the direction & location of that creature is not readily apparent without taking an action to focus your attention on the feelings of hostility.  As an action you may expend a use of your channel divinity to focus in on a feeling of hostility.  If the creature with hostile intentions towards you is visible to you that creature is identified as the one emanating the feelings of hostility you have focused on.  This focus does not tell you what hostile intentions the creature has (but you may guess based on the severity of discomfort you feel due its intentions).  Your awareness of hostile intentions towards you does not tell you if the creature has hostile intentions for a friend or a companion of yours.  You do not gain information about the ethics or alignment of creatures through this ability.


Some creatures are so hostile by nature that you are always aware of them when they are inside your aura.  Fiends and Undead are immediately identifiable by you as fiendish or undead when they enter your aura.  Depending on your alignment, religion, philosophy, or pathos the DM may decide that other creatures are always hostile towards you and you become immediately aware of them.


Paladins trained in the Sense Motive skill can learn to combine the knowledge gained by way of their aura with their trained insight into the motives of creatures.  Any attempt a paladin makes to detect if a creature is lying to him may benefit from advantage at the DM’s discretion. (This could also be a great skill trick if those become available to all classes)

Reminds me of what 2e did in the Paladin's Handbook


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Detect Evil Intent


   The paladin, so thoroughly aligned with the forces of good, can experience the mere presence of evil as a physical sensation. Although similar to the detect evil spell, the paladin's sensitivity to evil essentially functions as a sixth sense. But, like the spell, this ability doesn't work automatically. The player must make it clear that the paladin is attempting to detect evil; only then will the DM reveal the relevant information.


Use and Limitations


   Unlike other senses, the detection of evil works only when the paladin concentrates for one full round, remaining still and taking no other actions. Often, paladins close their eyes, lower their head, and clear their minds by focusing on their own breathing. Some paladins extend their palms, touch their foreheads with their fingers, or sweep their hands slowly in front of them. Details of the concentration routine vary from paladin to paladin, and each is free to come up with a unique routine. Once settled on a routine, the paladin should always execute it the same way.


   If attacked, distracted, or otherwise disturbed while concentrating, the paladin fails to detect evil. He may try again in subsequent rounds.


   The paladin may target an individual or group up to 60 feet distant, in an area about 10 feet wide, or a location where an individual or group might be hiding, such as a clump of bushes or a concealed alcove. The paladin must face the indicated individual, group, or location, but need not see the target. If blindfolded or in thick fog, for example, the paladin can target an individual by voice or movement, or just take a guess. In a shadowed corridor, the paladin's detect-evil ability can determine if anyone—or anything—with strong evil intent lurks in the darkness.


Eligible Targets


   A paladin can detect evil radiated by characters and monsters; undead created by evil magic; Negative Plane influences; evil artifacts; certain enchanted swords; and other intelligent objects that radiate evil. The ability can't detect cursed objects or traps, nor does it work on creatures of Animal intelligence or less (Intelligence 0 or 1), such as centipedes or carnivorous plants.


   The paladin's sensitivity to evil responds to the target's intention to commit an evil act. The ability doesn't reveal the precise nature of the intended act, nor does it reveal the target's actual alignment. Characters who are strongly aligned, who do not stray from their faith, and are of at least 9th level might radiate evil if intent upon appropriate actions. For instance, if the paladin uses this ability on a suspicious nonplayer character, the paladin may sense that the NPC radiates evil, but not that the NPC is neutral evil, or that the NPC plans to ambush and kill the paladin. If an NPC recently murdered a passerby, the paladin might pick up evil emanations from the NPC but cannot determine the nature of the crime. Creatures such as the rakshasa, who disguise themselves with illusions, may conceal their appearances but not their evil intentions.


   A high-level character unshakably committed to an evil alignment may radiate evil even when not specifically planning an evil act or thinking evil thoughts. Powerful evil monsters, such as red dragons and hill giants, also radiate evil uncontrollably. A paladin can always detect the presence of these types of evil beings, unless unusual conditions are in effect. For instance, in some evil strongholds or planes,everything reads evil, effectively negating the paladin's evil-sensing ability.


   Subject creatures may not make saving throws to resist a paladin's attempt to sense evil. However, undetectable alignment and similar spells cast on a target temporarily prevent the paladin from sensing the target's evil emanations. But as soon as the spell ends, the paladin is free to make another attempt.


   A paladin can't detect an evil presence through 3 feet or more of wood, 1 foot or more of stone, or 1 inch or more of metal. A thin coat of lead also prevents the use of this ability. A paladin perceives such barriers as nonspecific obstructions, without knowing their composition or widths.


Interpreting the Results


   If an attempt at sensing evil fails, or if there's no evil present, the paladin feels nothing out of the ordinary. If evil is present, the paladin might experience an unmistakable physical sensation. Though the type of sensation varies among paladins, a given paladin always has the same reaction. Typical reactions include tingling in the fingertips, a warm flush, a cold chill, or a dull throb behind the eyes; the DM can make up sensations. Usually the sensation lasts only a moment.


   If the paladin scans a crowd of people, tingling fingers won't pinpoint the character responsible for the evil emanations. If scanning a pool of murky water, throbbing eyes won't reveal the number or species of evil creatures lurking below the surface. However, the paladin may determine the degree of evil from the intensity of the sensation. Table 11 lists four general degrees and examples of sources. Two ways that a paladin might experience the corresponding sensations also appear. In an encounter, the DM describes only the sensation when a paladin successfully detects evil; the player must interpret the meaning of the sensation.


   At the DM's option, the paladin may discover the general nature of the evil as well as its degree. A pickpocket may radiate an expectant evil, a vampire's evil may be malignant. The DM may use the sensations suggested in Table 11 to indicate the nature of evil (the paladin experiences an expectant evil as an itch on his fingertips), or may employ a different set of sensations (a warmth in the chest indicates expectant evil).


Table 11: Degrees of Evil






















































































Degree



Typical Sources



Sensations



Faint



Pickpocket;



Slight itch on tips of



nonevil bully



fingers; light throb



behind eyes



Moderate



Mugger; skeleton



Tiny pinpricks



created by evil



along fingers;



cleric; imp;



dull pounding



typical orc



behind eyes



Strong



Mass murderer;



Pinpricks over



ghoul; vampire



entire surface of



hands; intense



pounding hurts



eyes



Over-



Venerable red



Sharp pain in



whelming



dragon; lich;



hands; agonizing



vampire mage



headache



   Ambiguous situations produce ambiguous results. If a vampire waits behind a 3-inch-thick stone wall fortified with 2 feet of wood, a paladin may detect a moderate or strong sensation of evil, rather than an overwhelming one. If a murderer hides behind a window with a coat of flaking lead paint, a paladin may detect a moderate instead of a strong sensation.


   If the DM can't decide which category in Table 11 to use, it's acceptable to give the paladin mixed signals. If a vicious mugger hides in a closet, but plans to surrender rather than fight if discovered, a paladin may detect both faint and moderate sensations (fingertip itches alternating with pinpricks).


The 2nd edition version was the inpiration  and is more or less what I was going for in this, do you think it will work out D&DN?

A DM I used to play with ran detect evil as detect evil intent.  Vlad the Impaler could be sitting at a bar sipping an ale, but if he wasn't planning his most recent impaling and was just enjoying the drink, the Paladin wouldn't detect anything.  Demons and other inherently evil things being exceptions.
It's not bad, but I'm not crazy about the detect lie aspect. That really impinges on a DM's ability to run an intrigue-based adventure at low levels.

If you don't mind, let's see if I can rework it a little bit.

Detect Transgressor
A paladin emits a holy aura 60' in every direction. The aura is palpable on a spiritual level, if not a physical one. Characters who share the paladin'salignment, faith or philosophy will feel comforted by the aura.  Characters who follow an alignment, faith, or philosophy that is anathema or in opposition to the paladin's aura will feel disquieted by the aura.  Others will simply note an emanation of powerfulness from the paladin.

Paladins will know when someone or something in his aura that he can see is anathema to his deity, religion, or philosophy. Such transgressors cannot have committed minor sins. Their transgression must be significant (to the deity or philosophy), and they must not feel any remorse over their action.  If you use alignment, then creatures of a diametrically opposite alignment will also be detected.  (For true neutral, anybody of an extreme alignment -- LG, CG, CG, LE -- will be detected.)  The paladin will not know which creature or object set off his sixth sense.

With an action, the paladin can learn one of the following pieces of information: (i) how many objects or creatures in his aura are transgressors, (ii) which of the objects or creatures in his aura is the most powerful transgressor (as determined by the DM), (iii) the nature of the transgression of a single object or creature in his aura that is a transgressor.

Other qualities of the holy aura:


  • Protection from outsiders.  Enemies from planes other than the Material have disadvantage on melee attack rolls against the paladin.  With an action, the paladin can share this protection with allies in his aura until the beginning of his next turn.

  • Protection from charm.  Paladins gain advantage on saving throw against charm, domination, and fear effects.  With an action, the paladin can share this protection with allies in his aura until the beginning of his next turn.

  • Specific orders of paladins may offer additional qualities for the paladin's holy aura.  For instance, paladins of the sun god may gain fire resistance and can use an action to share such resistance with his allies in his aura.  A paladin of healing may allow the paladin to use his lay on hands ability on any allies in his aura, not merely adjacent ones.  A paladin of light may be able to illuminate all creatures in his aura, perhaps even having a chance to reveal illusions and invisibility.

Alignments must burn in fire! Yell

I'd go with an ability called DETECT LAW BREAKER. It detects people that have broken the laws of a nation, group, faith or philosophy. They can detect the relative severity of the crime/sin but not the actual one. This detects the strict and literal meaning of the laws, so it's up to the detecter to determine if they broke the spirit of the law and/or if there was mitigation.

This means that you might end up detecting jay walkers and people that have spit in the street and people that may not even know that commited a crime. Crimes/sins detect until an athority rules ove the crime/sin and absolves or punishes them for it. 
Alignments must burn in fire! Yell



Agreed.

I'd go with an ability called DETECT LAW BREAKER. It detects people that have broken the laws of a nation, group, faith or philosophy. 



Isn't this ... everybody?  I mean, I eat bacon, this makes me a lawbreaker to at least two faiths, to say nothing of the philsophy of vegetarianism.  This would be useless because it would literally detect every sentient being on the face of the planet.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Isn't this ... everybody?  I mean, I eat bacon, this makes me a lawbreaker to at least two faiths, to say nothing of the philsophy of vegetarianism.  This would be useless because it would literally detect every sentient being on the face of the planet.


Yeah.  I see this a lot. People really dislike alignment so they turn paladin abilities into mockeries.  In a game where paladins are nto restricted to LG, paladins don't have to be concerned with lawbreakers. Heck, even in traditional D&D, paladins were supposed to be concerned with their relious tenets, not civil laws.
Meh ... the whole Detect thing is a bad idea anyway.  It completely bones any kind of mystery or investigation plot when you can just squint at the right person and find the bad guy.  Then you get the 'someone somewhere is mass producing Rings of Mind Shielding because every bad guy has one' and you might as well have not given the PC the ability in the first place because you have to nerf it.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
It's not bad, but I'm not crazy about the detect lie aspect. That really impinges on a DM's ability to run an intrigue-based adventure at low levels.

If you don't mind, let's see if I can rework it a little bit.

Detect Transgressor
A paladin emits a holy aura 60' in every direction. The aura is palpable on a spiritual level, if not a physical one. Characters who share the paladin'salignment, faith or philosophy will feel comforted by the aura.  Characters who follow an alignment, faith, or philosophy that is anathema or in opposition to the paladin's aura will feel disquieted by the aura.  Others will simply note an emanation of powerfulness from the paladin.

Paladins will know when someone or something in his aura that he can see is anathema to his deity, religion, or philosophy. Such transgressors cannot have committed minor sins. Their transgression must be significant (to the deity or philosophy), and they must not feel any remorse over their action.  If you use alignment, then creatures of a diametrically opposite alignment will also be detected.  (For true neutral, anybody of an extreme alignment -- LG, CG, CG, LE -- will be detected.)  The paladin will not know which creature or object set off his sixth sense.

With an action, the paladin can learn one of the following pieces of information: (i) how many objects or creatures in his aura are transgressors, (ii) which of the objects or creatures in his aura is the most powerful transgressor (as determined by the DM), (iii) the nature of the transgression of a single object or creature in his aura that is a transgressor.

Other qualities of the holy aura:


  • Protection from outsiders.  Enemies from planes other than the Material have disadvantage on melee attack rolls against the paladin.  With an action, the paladin can share this protection with allies in his aura until the beginning of his next turn.

  • Protection from charm.  Paladins gain advantage on saving throw against charm, domination, and fear effects.  With an action, the paladin can share this protection with allies in his aura until the beginning of his next turn.

  • Specific orders of paladins may offer additional qualities for the paladin's holy aura.  For instance, paladins of the sun god may gain fire resistance and can use an action to share such resistance with his allies in his aura.  A paladin of healing may allow the paladin to use his lay on hands ability on any allies in his aura, not merely adjacent ones.  A paladin of light may be able to illuminate all creatures in his aura, perhaps even having a chance to reveal illusions and invisibility.



I like this take on it. I particularly like the self-sacrifice aspect of using an action to extend the benefits of the aura to allies.

Does "Detect Evil" work on the shop-keeper that is embezzling money? What if that shop-keeper is embezzling that money to give to an orphanage? What if that orphanage is secretly a front for a vampire group?

"Detect Evil" is one of those things that is so subjective that it's not worth putting into the game.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

Meh ... the whole Detect thing is a bad idea anyway.  It completely bones any kind of mystery or investigation plot when you can just squint at the right person and find the bad guy.  Then you get the 'someone somewhere is mass producing Rings of Mind Shielding because every bad guy has one' and you might as well have not given the PC the ability in the first place because you have to nerf it.


Depends on what you detect.  Detect Evil had this issue, but Detect Transgressor really doesn't, unless your god defines "transgressor" as "BBEGs".  The only plot this interferes with are plots where one god's followers infiltrates another god's followers.  And those spies really should be equipped with magical means of passing undetected.
Does "Detect Evil" work on the shop-keeper that is embezzling money? What if that shop-keeper is embezzling that money to give to an orphanage? What if that orphanage is secretly a front for a vampire group?

"Detect Evil" is one of those things that is so subjective that it's not worth putting into the game.



Anything alignment-based is in that camp.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Does "Detect Evil" work on the shop-keeper that is embezzling money? What if that shop-keeper is embezzling that money to give to an orphanage? What if that orphanage is secretly a front for a vampire group?

"Detect Evil" is one of those things that is so subjective that it's not worth putting into the game.



That's why detect evil intent worked so much better 
Personal opinion...

My house rule for detect "evil" has been, for several editions, that it only works on evil outsiders and spells or magic items that are specifically "evil" (as in, have the descriptor if we're talking 3.5).

I'd kind of like to see D&D Next veer that way with paladins so that it doesn't necessarily interact with alignment at all (well, except for defining "supernatural evil" enough for the ability to work), so those who don't like it can drop alignment and still use the paladin class.     

All around helpful simian

Honestly, if we're simplifying things and making them effective game elements, I'd just go with this:

Detect Evil - You have advantage on Sense Motive checks. This is a magical effect.

There. Now paladins are good at that, but they don't screw up intrigue stories or force every enemy that really needs to be in disguise to have a Ring of Alignment Hiding.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Anything alignment-based is in that camp.

I wouldn't say anything. Alignment descriptors can have their place (especially in cosmologys that actually have beings made of pure evil, with "evil" and "good" being tangible forces within that cosmology). They are also good for making a general notation of an individuals or a group of individuals general outlook. If you have a choice to visit "Markington (NG Large City)" or "Pleasantville (LE Large City)" you are given general expectations.

Where alignment fails is where people use it as a generalizing crutch, an inappropriate rule, or let alignment dictate their actions.

That's why detect evil intent worked so much better 



How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?

Is thinking about doing evil, an evil act (evilception!)? Is embezzling money an evil act? Is embezzling money - breaking the law and taking money - in order to do a good thing an evil act? Is giving money to an evil outsider an evil act? What if you don't know you're giving it to an evil person?

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

I like how detect evil works in DCC if it is considered evil by a clerics god then it comes up as evil. Then there is supernatural evl....
I wouldn't say anything. Alignment descriptors can have their place (especially in cosmologys that actually have beings made of pure evil, with "evil" and "good" being tangible forces within that cosmology).



Maybe, but I find that entire concept to be beyond ridiculous.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I like how detect evil works in DCC if it is considered evil by a clerics god then it comes up as evil. Then there is supernatural evl....



So if I worship Badguymcevilpants, the god of murder, death, and general mayhem...and I use "detect evil/detect evil intent" do I find people looking to go do volunteer work at the local hospice? Those evil bastards!

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."



How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?



Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.  It's not as if paladins have ever been able to act on detect evil simply because it shows someone as evil.  Being "evil" is not a crime.  All detect is good for in most cases is to inform the paladin of who to watch out for.

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?



It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.
Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.

I think you really, somehow, totally missed the intent of my questions.

What would the paladin detect on the shop keeper thinking about embezzling money to give to kids in an orphanage that is actually (unknown to the shopkeep) a front for a vampire? You really haven't made any definition of "an evil act" so "thinking about doing an evil act" doesn't tell anybody anything.

It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.

That's the positive - that it tells players something about somebody that they have never met without the use of a skill to gauge intent. Sorta like an automatic-win 'insight'. Neat spell. The negative (I said net gain) is that you then have to define - clearly, and without ambiguity - what an "evil act" is and how evil it has to be to set off the alarm, and how soon that evil act needs to be (being thought about) taken to set off the alarm.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.

I think you really, somehow, totally missed the intent of my questions.

What would the paladin detect on the shop keeper thinking about embezzling money to give to kids in an orphanage that is actually (unknown to the shopkeep) a front for a vampire? You really haven't made any definition of "an evil act" so "thinking about doing an evil act" doesn't tell anybody anything.



He would detect nothing.  The vampire is irrelevent since the shopkeep doesn't know about it.  Only the intent of the act is important and imbezzlement isn't evil anyway.  Crime =/= evil.  Other factors determine whether a specific crime is evil or simply neutral.

That's the positive - that it tells players something about somebody that they have never met without the use of a skill to gauge intent. Sorta like an automatic-win 'insight'. Neat spell. The negative (I said net gain) is that you then have to define - clearly, and without ambiguity - what an "evil act" is and how evil it has to be to set off the alarm, and how soon that evil act needs to be (being thought about) taken to set off the alarm.



No you don't.  The DM doesn't have to define jack.  He simply lets you know if the ability works or not.  Nobody is going to agree with any other person in the world on exactly where every single possible act will fall on the good/evil scale, so it's not worth even trying.  So long as the players trust the DM to do his best, that's all that is required.
The problem with Detect Evil Intent is twofold ...

1. You still have to define evil, which is impossible, and
2. Everybody has evil intents that they don't act on.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
imbezzlement isn't evil anyway.  Crime =/= evil.

idobegyourpardonwut

Other factors determine whether a specific crime is evil or simply neutral.

What are these "other factors"?

The DM doesn't have to define jack.  He simply lets you know if the ability works or not.

"Here, player. Take this ability. What's it do? It tells you stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, I'll let you know what it tells you. Oh, you want to know when it works and when it doesn't? You don't get to know that, or even have a good gauge of when it will or it won't."

Even if you arbitrarily assign "evil" or "not so evil" or "not evil at all" to any act the player asks about, you still have to form an internal decision as to what constitutes evil or not evil. That you don't outwardly say it doesn't change that idea (and the problem being that evil is always relative; even if you form an idea about what is or isn't evil, there are good arguments about if it is or isn't - this is part of a bigger moral debate whose scope goes far beyond anything I would want to discuss, let alone here)

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

"Here, player. Take this ability. What's it do? It tells you stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, I'll let you know what it tells you. Oh, you want to know when it works and when it doesn't? You don't get to know that, or even have a good gauge of when it will or it won't."


I would be fine with that ability, assuming it was just fuff and nto expected to balance anything.  You could have plenty of powers that did that:

Sense Evil: The hairs on the back of your neck rise whenever you are in the presence of something of pure evil (as defined by the campaign). The DM uses this to create a sense of foreboding.

Sense Magic: You feel a chill in any area permeated by magic. The DM uses this to create a sense of mystery.

Sense Spirits: You feel your emotions becoming raw in an area occupied by raw primal spirits.  The DM uses this to create a sense of tension.

Etc.  All of these powere result can be categorized as "Sense Exposition"
The problem with Detect Evil Intent is twofold ...

1. You still have to define evil, which is impossible, and
2. Everybody has evil intents that they don't act on.



Number 1 is not true as I explained above and number 2 is irrelevant since the paladin can't act on it most of the time anyway.  As I already said, it's just informative to the paladin. 
idobegyourpardonwut



It's very simple.  An act being a crime does not make it in and of itself an evil act.  Jaywalking is a crime.  It's not evil.  Speeding is a crime.  It's not evil.  Being drunk in public is a crime.  It's not evil.

What are these "other factors"?



How harmful the act is to the victim.  What the intent is behind the harm. 

"Here, player. Take this ability. What's it do? It tells you when someone has the intent to do evil or if a being is inherently evil like a demon. What kind of stuff? I just told you.  Oh, you want to know when it works and when it doesn't? It always works.  But you will only detect the evil intent if the creature is inherently evil like a demon or is intending to do evil."  



Edited in bold for accuracy.

Even if you arbitrarily assign "evil" or "not so evil" or "not evil at all" to any act the player asks about, you still have to form an internal decision as to what constitutes evil or not evil. That you don't outwardly say it doesn't change that idea



Nothing is arbitrary about it.

(and the problem being that evil is always relative; even if you form an idea about what is or isn't evil, there are good arguments about if it is or isn't - this is part of a bigger moral debate whose scope goes far beyond anything I would want to discuss, let alone here)



The moral debate is irrelevant.  It's just a game.  Trust the DM to be fair about things and move on.
Howdy folks,

Going to step in for a moment and remind everyone that defining "evil" is a debate best left to philosophers.  ;)  When discussing things like a detect evil ability, its best to delegate the definitions of evil to the DM, the campaign, and the individual gaming group and leave it at that, at least for forum discussions.

Thanks.

All around helpful simian

How is the DM supposed to determine if the ability detects something if he doesn't define what it's supposed to detect?  'It works when I feel like it works' is pathetic DMing of the worst caliber.

Are you even reading what you type?
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Alignments must burn in fire! Yell


Agreed.
I'd go with an ability called DETECT LAW BREAKER. It detects people that have broken the laws of a nation, group, faith or philosophy.


Isn't this ... everybody?  I mean, I eat bacon, this makes me a lawbreaker to at least two faiths, to say nothing of the philsophy of vegetarianism.  This would be useless because it would literally detect every sentient being on the face of the planet.

The caster has to pick ONE. At least you can define what the laws of a religion or nation are. it's not as up in the air as good or evil.
Howdy folks,

Going to step in for a moment and remind everyone that defining "evil" is a debate best left to philosophers.  ;)  When discussing things like a detect evil ability, its best to delegate the definitions of evil to the DM, the campaign, and the individual gaming group and leave it at that, at least for forum discussions.

Thanks.

I have to wonder about the wisdom of adding a game element (alignment) that staff members don't want us talking about online. Tongue Out
How is the DM supposed to determine if the ability detects something if he doesn't define what it's supposed to detect?  'It works when I feel like it works' is pathetic DMing of the worst caliber.

Are you even reading what you type?



Yep, but apparently you're not or you wouldn't have posted that.


How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?



Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.  It's not as if paladins have ever been able to act on detect evil simply because it shows someone as evil.  Being "evil" is not a crime.  All detect is good for in most cases is to inform the paladin of who to watch out for.

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?



It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.



Exactly, it explains why the Paladin would be in the right place at the right time to save that girl and become the hero that everyone expects him to be. 

I really don't see how it causes any in game problems.   If the DM doesn't want the paladin to detect evil then it won't work for any number of imaginary reasons.    In the end all it does is empower the DM.    

In addition, when we played paladins we said that going around detecting evil on everyone in sight is an unlawful act and something a Paladin wouldn't usually do.   It would be like being a cop and pulling everyone you see over for questioning without a valid reason.    A LG paladin would most likely require a reasonable measure of suspicion before he would invade the privacy of every NPC in town.         

 




How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?



Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.  It's not as if paladins have ever been able to act on detect evil simply because it shows someone as evil.  Being "evil" is not a crime.  All detect is good for in most cases is to inform the paladin of who to watch out for.

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?



It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.



Exactly, it explains why the Paladin would be in the right place at the right time to save that girl and become the hero that everyone expects him to be. 

I really don't see how it causes any in game problems.   If the DM doesn't want the paladin to detect evil then it won't work for any number of imaginary reasons.    In the end all it does is empower the DM.    

In addition, when we played paladins we said that going around detecting evil on everyone in sight is an unlawful act and something a Paladin wouldn't usually do.   It would be like being a cop and pulling everyone you see over for questioning without a valid reason.    A LG paladin would most likely require a reasonable measure of suspicion before he would invade the privacy of every NPC in town.         

 

In this case it's not really the paladin's power. it's a DM's plot detection power instead. Better it be a 'god smacks you up side the head and lets you know where the adventure is' that any character can get instead of bothering trying to make it look like it's something a paladin gets to use with his own free will but isn't.



How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?



Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.  It's not as if paladins have ever been able to act on detect evil simply because it shows someone as evil.  Being "evil" is not a crime.  All detect is good for in most cases is to inform the paladin of who to watch out for.

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?



It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.



Exactly, it explains why the Paladin would be in the right place at the right time to save that girl and become the hero that everyone expects him to be. 

I really don't see how it causes any in game problems.   If the DM doesn't want the paladin to detect evil then it won't work for any number of imaginary reasons.    In the end all it does is empower the DM.    

In addition, when we played paladins we said that going around detecting evil on everyone in sight is an unlawful act and something a Paladin wouldn't usually do.   It would be like being a cop and pulling everyone you see over for questioning without a valid reason.    A LG paladin would most likely require a reasonable measure of suspicion before he would invade the privacy of every NPC in town.         

 

In this case it's not really the paladin's power. it's a DM's plot detection power instead. Better it be a 'god smacks you up side the head and lets you know where the adventure is' that any character can get instead of bothering trying to make it look like it's something a paladin gets to use with his own free will but isn't.




Yes to an extent, but the Paladin can still use it.   For other types of evil like Devils, Demons,  and A Book of Vile Darkness it would work perfectly.  


I think the big problem is that some people look too far into a philosophical definition of Evil and they forget how simple it really is.     Why over complicate a game with complex deconstructionist arguments against the concept of good and evil?   just go with it and use it.     




How do you define "evil intent"? Thinking about doing evil actions? Then you have to define "an evil action" (in addition to the conundrum of "this guy didn't do this crime, BUT HE WAS THINKING ABOUT DOING IT). What is an evil action? Something with an evil outcome? Something inherently evil? Something where people get hurt?



Yep.  If the paladin sees a shifty guy staring at a barmaid and that guy has decided to **** her later that night, he would set off alarms via detect evil intent.  It's not as if paladins have ever been able to act on detect evil simply because it shows someone as evil.  Being "evil" is not a crime.  All detect is good for in most cases is to inform the paladin of who to watch out for.

On top of that, what realistic game use does this ability have, anyhow, that contributes a net positive gain?



It's an informative tool.  And an aid to roleplaying.



Exactly, it explains why the Paladin would be in the right place at the right time to save that girl and become the hero that everyone expects him to be. 

I really don't see how it causes any in game problems.   If the DM doesn't want the paladin to detect evil then it won't work for any number of imaginary reasons.    In the end all it does is empower the DM.



I don't agree with this.  It's not about the DM wanting or not wanting it to work.  It's about the DM interpreting when there is evil in an unbiased manner.  What you are describing is arbitrary.  What I am describing is not.

In addition, when we played paladins we said that going around detecting evil on everyone in sight is an unlawful act and something a Paladin wouldn't usually do.

       It would be like being a cop and pulling everyone you see over for questioning without a valid reason.    A LG paladin would most likely require a reasonable measure of suspicion before he would invade the privacy of every NPC in town.         

 



I can agree with that.  It's a very personal intrusion into the person being detected.  I certainly have never played a paladin that has gone around detecting everyone in sight.

I don't agree with this.  It's not about the DM wanting or not wanting it to work.  It's about the DM interpreting when there is evil in an unbiased manner.  What you are describing is arbitrary.  What I am describing is not.



My point was simply that the DM can give any NPC he wants a ring of mind shielding or a spell of Non-Detection.    It really is up to to the DM imagination as to how an NPC can avoid being detected if needed.    In campaign with Paladins walking around and easy access to low level magic, it's highly likely that important NPCs would have protections against it.      Even spells like Know Alignment or Detect Law/Chaos work the same way.   Therefore the argument that it's a plot breaking device just isn't valid.   

Actually, the Campaign setting itself can alter how such abilities work.   In Ravenloft Detect Evil returns Law/Chaos.




My point was simply that the DM can give any NPC he wants a ring of mind shielding or a spell of Non-Detection.



If the DM can just go 'no, this doesn't work' whenever he wants, why bother giving the PC the ability?
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.


My point was simply that the DM can give any NPC he wants a ring of mind shielding or a spell of Non-Detection.



If the DM can just go 'no, this doesn't work' whenever he wants, why bother giving the PC the ability?

Yep, that was my point. It's turned into a DM power that just happens to be written down on the players sheet.


To dmgorgon. Why is the player EVER going to use his power if they KNOW that you'll just ignore it with DM fiat most of the time? After the 10th 'sorry, nothing detects evil' right before they get run through, they aren't going to waste the time on it and pretend it doesn't exist.
There's no point to giving the PCs plot-rending abilities, whether class-based, spell-based, or item-based.  Either you let them use them, and your game is wrecked, or you don't, and you might as well have not let them waste their time/energy/money/class feature/spell slot on acquiring it, because you have to render it valueless for the sake of the game.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The problem with Detect Evil Intent is twofold ...

1. You still have to define evil, which is impossible



That why we got alignments for. 

So if the paladin use detect evil and the character alignment is CE, ping he is evil. 
Very simple. 

I think I like detect hostile intent better. Why you mad, bro?

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