How to go about Evil and Evil actions

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I understand the Alignments,  and this is more 3.5 than anything. But my main issue is, what dictates what's exactly Evil and not Evil. I ask mainly cause Paladin's have the ability to sense Evil, and I'm not sure how to list characters. Obviously, Preforming acts of breaking law like robbery and theft is not Evil, just Chaotic. But where does Killing people fall down to? Killing cannot be an Evil act, as even Paladins kill. Even when it's just a disagreement.

The reason I ask is because I have an NPC who my Paladin demands is Evil. She has killed people, but she was hired as a Merc to kill. Which she did, she killed thugs, and thieves, but some were unarmed. And obviously, as some mean people have in stories, she has a heart of gold. In the sense, she took the Merc job to pay a healer to cure her Tribe of a sickness.

Regardless of cliches or not, how do I judge this of alignment?
Stop using alignment for mechanical effects, and then who cares what it does?
Stop using alignment for mechanical effects, and then who cares what it does?


+1
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Because, Alignment is part of the game. Like I said, this is 3.5, and in 3.5 Alignment actually comes into play with how the game works. The Paladin can sense Evil, AND one of it's attacks can only do damage TO Evil foes. If I was to just wipe that out, being a Paladin would be rather pointless.

Even though it has no Mechanical play in 4.0, I always feel Alignment is a very crucial and interesting aspect to the game. Helps determine who you are, instead of a skitzo who does anything at the drop of the hat just because they think it would be cool. Not to their character at all...
Thats just a Bad RPer that does whatever they want.  They aren't in character at all at that point.  Unless they have a reason to do what they are doing.

But the issue is XYZ feat/power/etc doesn't work with alignment.  Ok, let it worth without alignment.  They have to be evil to smite them?  Meh, just make them smite whomever and have it mean something.  The paladin CAN smite the woman giving out bread to orphans, but that better have some really strong backlash if the game isn't extremely boring and humdrum.

I played 3.5 and PF.  Although I am primarily a fan of 4e I did take all of the stuff with alignment from 3.5 before I switched over.  I took out the lawful/chaotic/good/evil restrictions.  I took out the extra damage some evil things get against good creatures and vice versa.  It didn't ruin the game, it made it have more depth.  If my characters were just acting randomly without caring about their character I didn't say "oh well, guess its time to bring back the alignment handcuffs for you", I sat them down and asked them why they wanted to do those things.

In the end if you have a table full of people who want a silly "do whatever whenever" adventure and will have more fun with that than a serious game.  Well then maybe you should be DMing that game and not your game.
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No, no, no, you're not taking my point. Youre fighting with me with about 'If Alignment is a worthy mechanic'.

But that is not my arugment/question. Im trying to figure out a line for Evil. What would make one Evil, is doing just evil acts be considered evil? What if someone does an Evil act for good reasons?

No one in my game plays randomly, but they know their role. They know their character, I was stating how Alignment helps players figure out where their character stand on issue. This problem Im having is a little deeper than just Alignment. How everything is not simply black and white. Understand?
I understand what you are saying.

Allow me to say what I mean better.*

Your group needs to come up with your group's definition of evil in order to play with alignment.  The clearer you are with that understanding the better the experience at table will be.  Now, this conversation, to avoid later problems if you are having problems now, needs to be pretty indepth and take some time to mull over some gray areas and get the opinions of the players.  The reason I said "do away with it" is because if you have to ask a question like this it means there is likely a problem that alignment has caused.  And the answer to "alignment is causing me problems" is generally "stop using it then".  Not because it is an easy answer, not because we like to/want to change the system.  It is because it is far less of a hassle in the long run and the short run than the alternative.

Lets take something else to compare it to.

If someone in here said "I'm working on a sandbox campaign.  What is the best way to design a huge number of encounters so that no matter where my players go, they will always have something to fight?"

Generally speaking the advice they will get is "don't make a massive number of encounters" for varying reasons.  Centauri will say making a ton of encounters is pointless and you should talk to your players to see what they want to do and then design those encounters together.  I would say make a few encounters, learn how to wing encounters with minimal prep and then do a mixture of "winged" encounters and rough encounters you can reskin to the occasion.  YagamiLight, when he gets unbanned, would say "use a random table to generate everything, all monsters and maps and whatnot" and don't design a ton of encounters.

Now, you CAN make a massive list of monsters.  That is doable, but a massive amount of effort compared to the easier alternatives.  So when you ask a question that has a long-drawn out method and a quick, easy and effective method, you will find a lot of answers supporting the latter.

That make more sense?

Edit: the *ed line because I phrased that wrong. 
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Im trying to figure out a line for Evil. What would make one Evil, is doing just evil acts be considered evil? What if someone does an Evil act for good reasons?



Ask a priest. A philosopher. Your mother. Anyone with some moral authority.

We cannot, will not, and should not answer this question for you, and the fact that it would come up in these terms is exactly why alignment is a terrible, terrible idea.

I was stating how Alignment helps players figure out where their character stand on issue



You were demonstrating the precise opposite: your character knows exactly where he stands on the issue, and the alignment labeling is muddying the otherwise crystal water.

Alignment labels are not information, they are a conceit of knowledge.
pretty sure that it is widely agreed that the "ends justify the means" mentality is immoral. which means that she is not good. but does it mean that she is evil?

it certainly sounds like she is willing to do evil to get what she desires. and since it is her tribe and not some neighboring tribe that makes it a somewhat selfish act to sacrifice the happiness of strangers for the happiness of her loved ones

however she isn't hurting people for the sake of hurting them either. (like she enjoys it or feels a rush or some such explicitly evil mumbo-jumbo)

if 0 were neutral and 10 were saintly and -10 was pure evil. i would give her a -2 from what you have told me. just on the evil side of neutral. it is really hard to be good. but it is quite easy to rationalize immoral action

for example if someone would give me medicine for my sick family members, but to get it i had to go on a killing spree in the county jail? They don't exactly hand out medals for that kind of behavior. probably will get me sent to the electric chair, in fact.

categorizing someone as neutral, evil, or good only allows for non-actors, saints, or demons which is a pretty 2-dimensional story-telling. (often what you get from Hollywood action movies)

as far as the paladin senses go you don't have to be so binary. you could describe her as a dim light surrounded by/strugginling against/succombing to darkness or whatever you feel is appropriate for her character. you could even make the evil only ability do half damage.

if you want a more in depth reason for what makes someone evil or not evil you need to read some philosophy of ethics. there are quite a few conflicting theories. if you use one, make sure you players know which one ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.

I think a lot of your problem is that you are trying to decide if someone is evil based on their actions. you need to look at their intent. you character seems to want to help people she cares about at the expense of people she doesn't care about. which is largely a selfish action. she doesn't want to lose her loved ones but doesn't care if others lose their loved ones. if she was truly good she would be attempting to save all parties involved. however, if she was truly evil she would just say screw it find some recently orphaned kittens to torture. I mean it's not she spends all her time searching for people to kill so she can get her hands on a new +2 sword (most PCs)


in 4e it specifically says that alignment is more about whether or not your character has decided to join one side or the other in a war going on the between the "good" gods and the "evil" gods. and has little to do with your character's personal ethics and decision making. meaning you could be unaligned i.e. not joined either side of the conflict and still torture kittens or feed hungry orphans. hell, you could join the side of evil for any number of reasons and try to make them win using only good actions. or perhaps you want the good side to win but decide that you will do so using you patented kitten torture techniques. will you have conflicts with your allies if you chose either such path. probably. but they wouldn't be boring.
pretty sure that it is widely agreed that the "ends justify the means" mentality is immoral. which means that she is not good. but does it mean that she is evil? it certainly sounds like she is willing to do evil to get what she desires. and since it is her tribe and not some neighboring tribe that makes it a somewhat selfish act to sacrifice the happiness of strangers for the happiness of her loved ones however she isn't hurting people for the sake of hurting them either. (like she enjoys it or feels a rush or some such explicitly evil mumbo-jumbo) if 0 were neutral and 10 were saintly and -10 was pure evil. i would give her a -2 from what you have told me. just on the evil side of neutral. it is really hard to be good. but it is quite easy to rationalize immoral action for example if someone would give me medicine for my sick family members, but to get it i had to go on a killing spree in the county jail? They don't exactly hand out medals for that kind of behavior. probably will get me sent to the electric chair, in fact. categorizing someone as neutral, evil, or good only allows for non-actors, saints, or demons which is a pretty 2-dimensional story-telling. (often what you get from Hollywood action movies) as far as the paladin senses go you don't have to be so binary. you could describe her as a dim light surrounded by/strugginling against/succombing to darkness or whatever you feel is appropriate for her character. you could even make the evil only ability do half damage. if you want a more in depth reason for what makes someone evil or not evil you need to read some philosophy of ethics. there are quite a few conflicting theories. if you use one, make sure you players know which one ahead of time so they can plan accordingly. I think a lot of your problem is that you are trying to decide if someone is evil based on their actions. you need to look at their intent. you character seems to want to help people she cares about at the expense of people she doesn't care about. which is largely a selfish action. she doesn't want to lose her loved ones but doesn't care if others lose their loved ones. if she was truly good she would be attempting to save all parties involved. however, if she was truly evil she would just say screw it find some recently orphaned kittens to torture. I mean it's not she spends all her time searching for people to kill so she can get her hands on a new +2 sword (most PCs) in 4e it specifically says that alignment is more about whether or not your character has decided to join one side or the other in a war going on the between the "good" gods and the "evil" gods. and has little to do with your character's personal ethics and decision making. meaning you could be unaligned i.e. not joined either side of the conflict and still torture kittens or feed hungry orphans. hell, you could join the side of evil for any number of reasons and try to make them win using only good actions. or perhaps you want the good side to win but decide that you will do so using you patented kitten torture techniques. will you have conflicts with your allies if you chose either such path. probably. but they wouldn't be boring.



Unc, you gotta get some sort of method for curbing that rampant case of lowercasing you have going on.
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i only use shift for formal occasions
i only use shift for formal occasions


Yeah, well I love talking to you and even I couldn't get through that whole post without stopping halfway through to go somewhere else.  A really well defined argument can be turned sterile by the way it is presented.
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bah humbug
Im trying to figure out a line for Evil. What would make one Evil, is doing just evil acts be considered evil? What if someone does an Evil act for good reasons?



Ask a priest. A philosopher. Your mother. Anyone with some moral authority.

We cannot, will not, and should not answer this question for you, and the fact that it would come up in these terms is exactly why alignment is a terrible, terrible idea.



So a Paladin, and every player in the world of DnD is actually Evil because they kill things. THANKs! I would have never known... Everyone is evil... It's this kind of thinking that bothers me about people.

*Edit* We alos live in a world were we dont NEED to kill anymore. the Worlds of DnD are something far gone. Remember the Crusades? They were killing for 'good'. And history more so over? Killing is often a needed action to survive. Maybe it is selfish, but I will kill you to feed my family, instead of you feeding yours. Thats why its Survival of the Fittest. Not the nicest thing, but if we were nice, we wouldn't be alive any longer.


Aside from my apparent Sarcasm. Nonki, I really like your thought process for it. She's not exactly full blown evil, but she could obviously be better. More so than just the stands good, neutral and evil kind of standards. I will defiently take this into concideration.
OP:

She's killing bad guys on a fee-for-service basis. That's pretty much what PCs do most of the time. Since she doesn't seem to be including innocents among the people she's willing to take out, it isn't evil, but it isn't necessarily good, either. Nor is killing someone who is unarmed inherently aligned. (It may not be chivalrous, but unless there's some reason why she should feel bound to a code of chivalry, there's nothing alignment-altering about being unchivalrous.)

The fact that she's doing so for the sake of her tribe isn't automatically good either (since her tribe fits the definition of a personal affiliation as per the neutral alignment).

In short, nothing about this really points to any particular alignment. Whether she falls under any of the L/C/G/E/N descriptions will depend on what else is true of her personality and motives, but on this basis alone she'd be "true neutral" (in the sense of "don't care" not "cosmic balance psycho").
OP: She's killing bad guys on a fee-for-service basis. That's pretty much what PCs do most of the time. Since she doesn't seem to be including innocents among the people she's willing to take out, it isn't evil, but it isn't necessarily good, either. Nor is killing someone who is unarmed inherently aligned. (It may not be chivalrous, but unless there's some reason why she should feel bound to a code of chivalry, there's nothing alignment-altering about being unchivalrous.) The fact that she's doing so for the sake of her tribe isn't automatically good either (since her tribe fits the definition of a personal affiliation as per the neutral alignment). In short, nothing about this really points to any particular alignment. Whether she falls under any of the L/C/G/E/N descriptions will depend on what else is true of her personality and motives, but on this basis alone she'd be "true neutral" (in the sense of "don't care" not "cosmic balance psycho").



Thats what I thought. Not good, but not evil. Thank you for taking the time to answer it.
OP: She's killing bad guys on a fee-for-service basis. That's pretty much what PCs do most of the time. Since she doesn't seem to be including innocents among the people she's willing to take out, it isn't evil, but it isn't necessarily good, either. Nor is killing someone who is unarmed inherently aligned. (It may not be chivalrous, but unless there's some reason why she should feel bound to a code of chivalry, there's nothing alignment-altering about being unchivalrous.) The fact that she's doing so for the sake of her tribe isn't automatically good either (since her tribe fits the definition of a personal affiliation as per the neutral alignment). In short, nothing about this really points to any particular alignment. Whether she falls under any of the L/C/G/E/N descriptions will depend on what else is true of her personality and motives, but on this basis alone she'd be "true neutral" (in the sense of "don't care" not "cosmic balance psycho").



Thats what I thought. Not good, but not evil. Thank you for taking the time to answer it.



Rather, thanks for taking his time to give the answer you were digging for
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OP: She's killing bad guys on a fee-for-service basis. That's pretty much what PCs do most of the time. Since she doesn't seem to be including innocents among the people she's willing to take out, it isn't evil, but it isn't necessarily good, either. Nor is killing someone who is unarmed inherently aligned. (It may not be chivalrous, but unless there's some reason why she should feel bound to a code of chivalry, there's nothing alignment-altering about being unchivalrous.) The fact that she's doing so for the sake of her tribe isn't automatically good either (since her tribe fits the definition of a personal affiliation as per the neutral alignment). In short, nothing about this really points to any particular alignment. Whether she falls under any of the L/C/G/E/N descriptions will depend on what else is true of her personality and motives, but on this basis alone she'd be "true neutral" (in the sense of "don't care" not "cosmic balance psycho").



Thats what I thought. Not good, but not evil. Thank you for taking the time to answer it.



Rather, thanks for taking his time to give the answer you were digging for



While Partial true, I feel Nonki had a great response, that I am implenting as well.

Well.. Alraune did tell you to ask a Philisopher. (Nonki is a Philisopher)
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Don't make any humanoids or natural creatures evil, even if others consider them evil. If you reserve evil for things like devils, demons and the undead, then you don't need to worry about what makes something evil, evil things just are evil, regardless of how they act. I like how 4th Edition does it: demons, devils, and undead aren't more susceptible to a paladin's attacks because they're evil, but because they are often vulnerable to radiant damage, which paladins are good at dealing out.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I understand the Alignments,  and this is more 3.5 than anything. But my main issue is, what dictates what's exactly Evil and not Evil. I ask mainly cause Paladin's have the ability to sense Evil, and I'm not sure how to list characters. Obviously, Preforming acts of breaking law like robbery and theft is not Evil, just Chaotic. But where does Killing people fall down to? Killing cannot be an Evil act, as even Paladins kill. Even when it's just a disagreement.

The reason I ask is because I have an NPC who my Paladin demands is Evil. She has killed people, but she was hired as a Merc to kill. Which she did, she killed thugs, and thieves, but some were unarmed. And obviously, as some mean people have in stories, she has a heart of gold. In the sense, she took the Merc job to pay a healer to cure her Tribe of a sickness.

Regardless of cliches or not, how do I judge this of alignment?



There is a reason the game has moved away from the alignment system since 3.5, and this is it.  Try not to think of it as "detect evil". Try to think of it as "detect evil to me".  What exactly is it that your paladin thinks he is detecting?
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
I understand the Alignments,  and this is more 3.5 than anything. But my main issue is, what dictates what's exactly Evil and not Evil. I ask mainly cause Paladin's have the ability to sense Evil, and I'm not sure how to list characters. Obviously, Preforming acts of breaking law like robbery and theft is not Evil, just Chaotic. But where does Killing people fall down to? Killing cannot be an Evil act, as even Paladins kill. Even when it's just a disagreement.

The reason I ask is because I have an NPC who my Paladin demands is Evil. She has killed people, but she was hired as a Merc to kill. Which she did, she killed thugs, and thieves, but some were unarmed. And obviously, as some mean people have in stories, she has a heart of gold. In the sense, she took the Merc job to pay a healer to cure her Tribe of a sickness.

Regardless of cliches or not, how do I judge this of alignment?



Question are you seeking this information to guide actions of the bad guys?
Or to define the actions of you players?
Or for the use of specific spells or detections?

As was already stated talk about it with your players.
Don't defines any races or creatures as specifically evil.
As for evil acts you could also look at the intent of the action to determine if it is evil.



I understand the Alignments,  and this is more 3.5 than anything. But my main issue is, what dictates what's exactly Evil and not Evil. I ask mainly cause Paladin's have the ability to sense Evil, and I'm not sure how to list characters. Obviously, Preforming acts of breaking law like robbery and theft is not Evil, just Chaotic. But where does Killing people fall down to? Killing cannot be an Evil act, as even Paladins kill. Even when it's just a disagreement.

The reason I ask is because I have an NPC who my Paladin demands is Evil. She has killed people, but she was hired as a Merc to kill. Which she did, she killed thugs, and thieves, but some were unarmed. And obviously, as some mean people have in stories, she has a heart of gold. In the sense, she took the Merc job to pay a healer to cure her Tribe of a sickness.

Regardless of cliches or not, how do I judge this of alignment?



I judge your NPC as neutral (most mercs are) but definitely not evil.  Even neutral or evil charactors make personal sacrifice for the well being of people they care about so that don't make them good either.

Your player judges her alignment as evil.  (he's not wrong. however he justifies his conclusion.)  If killing alone makes someone evil, then next time he kills something, armed or unarmed, ask him does that make him evil too? 

How you judge her alignment... well only you can answer that question.

The problem with Detect Evil spell occurs when you all define the result as black and white.  Give it a spectrum of color that may vary.  Between pure evil and pure good, there is such a spectrum.  Pure evil (demons) bright red or black. Good person doing some bad things (orange), Neutral person (yellow), Totally pure and good person (white or deep blue).    Let color change a bit depending on what npc or pc just might have committed or done.  Just selflessly fed the poor? Streak of blue in a orange spectrum of a neutral person.  Let your player chew on that.  Detect Evil ability should rarely give a definite Black or White answer.  Players want a easy solution to utilize it to make a cookie cutter decision;  Detect Evil.  It's evil.  Kill.  Detect Evil.  It's not evil. Not kill.

hehe a demon with a streak of white in his Detect Evil aura...now that can throw your paladin off.  Wuz up with this demon.

If going to use alignment and alignment detectors, make it not black and white.  It should be a flavor that adds, not take away, or ruin ones game.
I don't know if a guide for that edition has been posted yet, but I have descriptions that I'll post that might be what you're looking for when I get home (on my phone). It sort of describes what actions fall into each alignment which helps for role playing. It's fairly wordy though.
I don't know if a guide for that edition has been posted yet, but I have descriptions that I'll post that might be what you're looking for when I get home (on my phone). It sort of describes what actions fall into each alignment which helps for role playing. It's fairly wordy though.



There are articles about this sort of things in the wizards main site if you really want to cripple yourself with alignment in the "right" way.
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Lawful Evil - "Dominator"
A lawful evil villain methodologically takes what they want within the limits of their code of conduct. They care about tradition, loyalty and order, but not about freedom, dignity or life. They are loath to break laws or promised, partially because they depend on order to protect themselves. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood, and imagine that these compunctions put them above unpredictable thugs. The scheming baron who exploits his people is lawful evil.
Lawful evil represents methodical evil. 

Neutral Evil - "Malefactor" 
A neutral evil villain does whatever they can get away with, shedding no tears for those they harm. The have no love for order and hold no illusions that following laws, traditions or codes would make them any more noble. However, they don't have the restless nature or love of conflict that a chaotic villain has. The being who robs and murders to get what they want is neutral evil. 
Neutral evil represents evil without honor and without variation. 

Chaotic Evil - "Destroyer"
A chaotic evil being does whatever their greed, hatred and lust for destruction drive them to do. They are hot tempered, vicious and unpredictable. Thankfully, their plans are haphazard, and any groups they join or form are poorly organised. Typically, chaotic evil beings can only be made to work together by force, and their leader lasts only as long as they can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate them. The demented being pursuing mad schemes of vengeance and havoc is chaotic evil. 
Chaotic evil represents the destruction of not only beauty and life but of the order on which beauty and life depend.


--
This is what I have on Evil alignment
There was a great old dragon Magazine article about Paladins and evil.
The paladin (prior to 4th Ed), couldn't just run around killing everything that set of as evil. That could be unlawful.
But, he would not voluntarily have anything to do with someone who was evil.
Take the case of the evil shepherd. He treats his flock poorly, and is a petty miser. He is jealous of his neighbor, who always gets a better price for his sheep at market (because the neighbor does the work and takes care of his own flock). The evil shepherd might even take out his frustrations on his livestock.
The paladin, sensing evil, would not buy sheep from the evil shepherd. He might try to reform him, pointing out the benefits of care and compassion, and that if he starts taking better care of his animals, he might start to see the rewards of the efforts.
Is the shepherd evil? certainly.
Is the shepherd a threat to society deserving of smiting? no.

The article went on with more examples and much more eloquent phrasing.