Multiracial Morality, or What Is a Person?

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This thread is perfect fodder for the Mature Boards long ago, but since I have no idea where discussions like this go these days I'm putting it here and hoping the mods move it if it needs moving.

A matter that's been in the back of my head for a long time is the assumption that a certain subset of intelligent, loquent creatures sufficiently similar to humans (AD&D conveniently set them off as "demihumans", an unfortunately deprecated term) all count as people for moral purposes and should be treated like humans. Other human-like, intelligent, loquent creatures (AD&D "humanoids") may be treated as people or animals depending on the setting and the demihuman. Non-humanoid (in the 3e sense), intelligent creatures are invariably animals to be slaughtered if problematic.

So, what determines who is and is not a person? It's certainly not intelligence (or spell weavers would count) or intelligence plus the ability to speak (or red dragons would count). Perhaps intelligence, plus the ability to speak, plus living in social groups? Mind flayers and yuan-ti qualify and their treatment as "persons" is uncommon. Perhaps intelligence, plus the ability to speak, plus living in social groups, plus looking like a human? This seems promising, although giants, kobolds, orcs and goblins are still sometimes not treated as persons.

Personhood comes down to being able to communicate with humans, living like humans, looking like a human, and not being able to outbreed humans. The fewer of these criteria met, the more likely that the creature will be treated as an honorary human instead of an animal.

Are there any gaping holes in my analysis? I don't have any formal training in morality, but I'm interested in this subject, especially because my setting has non-humanoid intelligent races and whether or not personhood/honorary humanity would carry across a gap that wide is IMO doubtful.
"Have a nice day." - Guardia de Mieux Every time a peasant child goes to bed with a full stomach, somewhere a druid cries. Qui istal tengwa quentele sina, orinyel hauta tengwa ar auta et coalyallo.
So, what determines who is and is not a person? It's certainly not intelligence (or spell weavers would count)

Why shouldn't Spell Weavers count? If it's because adventurers kill them, well that's mostly because Spell Weavers are doing something evil that makes them a target for death, the same as a band of human thieves trying to steal from the adventurers' caravan. Seems to me that killing one is the same as killing the other.

or intelligence plus the ability to speak (or red dragons would count).

For the record, I'm pretty sure spell weavers can speak too, at least telepathically. But again, I think Red Dragons should count too. Sure, adventurers kill them, but again, that's because red dragons are usually doing evil things that make them a target for PC adventurers. If you run across across a good red dragon that's polite and invites you over for tea, I see no reason not to treat him the same way you would any human.

Perhaps intelligence, plus the ability to speak, plus living in social groups? Mind flayers and yuan-ti qualify and their treatment as "persons" is uncommon.

Again, why not? They're just evil people we usually kill is all. :P
If they start behaving non-evilly, I don't see why we shouldn't treat them nicely. I'm reminded of a Mind Flayer in the Book of Exalted Deeds that refuses to enslave and consume the brains of humanoids. It just has a Ring of Sustenance or something and it's a Monk if I recall correctly, perfectly good guy (chick?) and should be treated same as any other person.

Perhaps intelligence, plus the ability to speak, plus living in social groups, plus looking like a human? This seems promising, although giants, kobolds, orcs and goblins are still sometimes not treated as persons.

Just because they're not treated as people doesn't mean they shouldn't be. :P

Really, to me it all comes down to whether or not the creature can be said to be responsible for its own actions and what those actions have been. If the creature has committed genocide or are plotting to destroy the world or summon their deity of eldritch evil, they fair game for the adventurer party to slaughter mercilessly, whether they be mind flayer or kobolds or humans or elves. Interestingly, this definition leaves out children who have not reached their "age of responsibility" yet, but I happen to be okay with that.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
The Pretty races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, etc) are people. Ugly races (Orcs, Kobolds, Gnolls) are not people, should be assumed to be evil, and should be killed on sight.

Just like it always has been.
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This thread is perfect fodder for the Mature Boards long ago

Really? Doesn't look like furry porn to me.

Anyway, to adress your question; you are describing a false dichotomy. If it is intelligent, can communicate, and isn't inherently evil, it is a person.

The inherent evil part is the trickiest part of this statement. While this was much more common in 3.x than it is today, some creatures are literally evil incarnate. Not "raised in a violent culture" or "has inborn agressive tendencies that must be supressed." I mean actual destruction given flesh. fortunately, the only creatures that fit that bill these days are the demons; even devils are no longer inherently evil.

As Crimson pointed out, most intelligent monsters in DnD are deemed not-persons because they behave like not-persons. A member of any race can become a not-person by engaging in constant (or nearly constant) evil behavior. A human devil-cultist has the same moral status as an ogre devil-cultist. Conversely, a simple ogre hunter-gatherer who doesn't eat other sentients has the same moral status as a human hunter-gatherer who doesn't eat other sentients. What makes them different is that ogres (due to a combination of inherent, cultural, and environmental factors, in whatever proportion the DM decides) are more likely to be cannibalistic devil-cultists than humans are.

Of course, this is the default fluff. If you want to create a Diablo-esque world where most monsters are irredeemably tainted by evil and were created and continue to exist soley by the will of malevolent demon gods, more power to you. That's a perfectly valid subgenre of high fantasy.
Good point, there is a lot of circularity going on. Ugly/inhuman creatures are almost always depicted as evil, so when someone complains that humans automatically treat ugly/inhuman creatures as evil, the reply is that the unattractive creatures are evil. When's the last time that a race of attractive, humanlike, slow-breeding creatures were depicted as evil to the core?
"Have a nice day." - Guardia de Mieux Every time a peasant child goes to bed with a full stomach, somewhere a druid cries. Qui istal tengwa quentele sina, orinyel hauta tengwa ar auta et coalyallo.
When's the last time that a race of attractive, humanlike, slow-breeding creatures were depicted as evil to the core?

Drow?
Good point, there is a lot of circularity going on. Ugly/inhuman creatures are almost always depicted as evil, so when someone complains that humans automatically treat ugly/inhuman creatures as evil, the reply is that the unattractive creatures are evil. When's the last time that a race of attractive, humanlike, slow-breeding creatures were depicted as evil to the core?

4E changes this. Ugly and monstrous-looking dragonborn are a PHB1 race. Sexy elves and eladrin are described in the books as just as likely to be evil as good (especially in the case of the eladrin). As for the tieflings, well, there are so many shades of moral back-and-forth in their history (and aesthetic back-and-forth in their appearance) that they constitute a real trope breaker.
So, what determines who is and is not a person?
In a fantasy roleplaying game, the short answer is "the DM".

The long answer is that it is an unanswerable and irrelevant question. It requires a morality-based answer without the ability to directly link the context (the game world) to the moral code (the world in which the respondent really lives).
  • If we use modern world morality, then we cannot answer because there are no creatures that fit the "what about creature X" context.
  • If we use older real world moralities, in which mankind consistently set apart other human beings as less-than, then we find that there is no definition of personhood that can apply to the fantasy world. "Looks like me" was the criteria.
For my game, in reference to the short answer, there is no concept of "personhood" by which such morality plays a role. You kill what you kill. Killing evil is good. Killing innocent is evil. No "personhood" about it.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Drow?

Well, according to 3.5 edition ecology of the Drow, they are pretty much sharks with pointy ears.
Enhh??? I'm not at all familiar with this ecology... Drow have always been shown as dark-skinned elves from everything I've seen. Like in the d20 srd: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/MM35_gallery/MM35_PG103.jpg
Ugly and monstrous-looking dragonborn are a PHB1 race.

Not everyone thinks Dragonborn are ugly :P
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Rule that I would change: 204.1b
204.1b Some effects change an object’s card type, supertype, or subtype but specify that the object retains a prior card type, supertype, or subtype. In such cases, all the object’s prior card types, supertypes, and subtypes are retained. This rule applies to effects that use the phrase “in addition to its types” or that state that something is “still a [card type].” Some effects state that an object becomes an “artifact creature”; these effects also allow the object to retain all of its prior card types and subtypes.
"Eight Edition Rules Update" We eventually decided not to change this template, because players are used to “becomes an artifact creature,” and like it much better.
Players were used to Combat on the Stack, but you got rid of that because it was unintuitive. The only phrase needed is "in addition to its types"; the others are misleading and unintuitive.
Trope Time!

What Measure Is A Non Human
What Measure Is A Non Cute
What Measure Is A Mook
What Measure Is A Non Super

Some creatures are generally killed because of a their behavior. Other non humans think very little of humans. Of course humans can be just as bad. and are capable of just as much evil.
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It Came From Section Four!
Warning: Posts my contain evil.

Orc in the House of Trolls
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Not everyone thinks Dragonborn are ugly :P

It really depends on who draws them for me :p
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Trope Time!

What Measure Is A Non Human
What Measure Is A Non Cute
What Measure Is A Mook
What Measure Is A Non Super

Some creatures are generally killed because of a their behavior. Other non humans think very little of humans. Of course humans can be just as bad. and are capable of just as much evil.

FIEND! I have to study for a test tomorrow!!
I'm reminded of something that was said in Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes, by a drow adventurer to one of the goblins. It was something along the lines of:

"You were put on this earth for only one reason. To provide XP and treasure for us adventurers!"

I haven't read Rich Burlew's book "Start of Darkness" but this same concept is the reason Redcloak's god, the Dark One, exists, since when he ascended he learned that that's why the gods created the "monster" races.

What makes a person a person? The answer is simple. Is your race in the Player's Handbook? Then you are a person. If your race is in the Monster Manual, you are only a thing to be killed by adventurers, who will then take your stuff.

It's not a politically correct system, but it is how the sourcebooks, throughout D&D history, seem to have set it up.
Really no one can give you a definite answer because it depends upon your DM, campaign, and group sensibilities.

It is entirely possible to play a game of D&D where the "monsterous" races (orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc...) are just another intelligent culture. In these games, they act much like the "bad guy" aliens in Star Trek. They are usually antagonistic and often up to no good - the players may have to fight and kill them to save lives. However, they are persons and must be treated as such. Non-combatants can't be killed and when they are not acting out and out agressive they might be infiltrated or even bargained with. Eberron is a great example and treats many goblinoids in this manner.

It is also possible to play a game of D&D where the monsterous creatures are literal incarnations of evil. It is a common theme in fantasy and mythology for intangible concepts to be given tangible forms: a potion might be literally made of bottled courage, love, or luck or a creature be the essence of fire, beauty, winter, or fear. After all magic is all about doing the impossible and even the illogical. In these settings it is certainly believable for a creature to be an embodiment of something very negative like hatred, destruction, or death (is this any stranger then a potion of luck or courage?). In these games an orc (just a hypothetical example) might be a living embodiment of destruction; though it seems capable of using intelligent tactics but it is not a person and has no capacity for love, friendship, or benevolence. In this type of setting it is probably acceptable to actively hunt down and destroy these monsters (there are no civilians).

Usually my settings tend to towards the first type, I just can't help but bring along sympathetic orcs, goblins, kobalds, etc.... (Though I tend to treat more supernatural creatures like undead, dragons, etc... more like the second type). However, it is really up to the world you want to create.
What makes a person a person? The answer is simple. Is your race in the Player's Handbook? Then you are a person. If your race is in the Monster Manual, you are only a thing to be killed by adventurers, who will then take your stuff.

Are you just trying to be inflammatory?

While this may be an attitude that many gamers have historically adopted, I don't believe it was ever encouraged by RAW (even back in first edition, I distinctly recall the published adventures giving the PC's option to parlay with many intelligent monsters rather than necessarily having to fight them). You are taking the ideas of one school of gamer thought and trying to pass it off as Word of God, when in reality the publishers have never explicitly advocated it.

In fact, I'm tempted to say that the game designers officially REJECTED this paradigm from 3.5e onward, when they started including PC writeups for any intelligent creature that could be considered even remotely playable. In 4e, the downplaying of alignment only furthers this trend.

In short, I hope you're just trolling.
Enhh??? I'm not at all familiar with this ecology... Drow have always been shown as dark-skinned elves from everything I've seen. Like in the d20 srd: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/MM35_gallery/MM35_PG103.jpg

OK, I didn't mean literally sharks with pointed ears. Just socially. According to the article, Drow society is extremely cut-throat and full of backstabbing. Most Drow don't make it to adulthood. Lethal combats to advance to the next position are common. There is very little familial loyalty, and what there is is based on fear. In the rare case that a drow becomes pregnant with twins, so filled with hatred etc. are they that one of the fetuses will kill the other.

In order to maintain population, they must breed like orcs.

So rather than being the dark side of elves, as in everything written previously, they are something rather less interesting.

I've always thought of drow as being very much like elves, except twisted. They are into the arts, except theirs involve inflicting pain. They are very loyal to their families, so much so that they will practice evil acts on other families. They have an innate sense of superiority, so much so that they enslave other races. That sort of thing. The characture presented in that particular ecology article was so extreme that, even by D&D standards, it couldn't be taken seriously.

Oh yeah, they seem to shop at Frederick's of Mordor.
Really no one can give you a definite answer because it depends upon your DM, campaign, and group sensibilities.

It is entirely possible to play a game of D&D where the "monsterous" races (orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc...) are just another intelligent culture. In these games, they act much like the "bad guy" aliens in Star Trek. They are usually antagonistic and often up to no good - the players may have to fight and kill them to save lives. However, they are persons and must be treated as such. Non-combatants can't be killed and when they are not acting out and out agressive they might be infiltrated or even bargained with. Eberron is a great example and treats many goblinoids in this manner.

It is also possible to play a game of D&D where the monsterous creatures are literal incarnations of evil. It is a common theme in fantasy and mythology for intangible concepts to be given tangible forms: a potion might be literally made of bottled courage, love, or luck or a creature be the essence of fire, beauty, winter, or fear. After all magic is all about doing the impossible and even the illogical. In these settings it is certainly believable for a creature to be an embodiment of something very negative like hatred, destruction, or death (is this any stranger then a potion of luck or courage?). In these games an orc (just a hypothetical example) might be a living embodiment of destruction; though it seems capable of using intelligent tactics but it is not a person and has no capacity for love, friendship, or benevolence. In this type of setting it is probably acceptable to actively hunt down and destroy these monsters (there are no civilians).

Usually my settings tend to towards the first type, I just can't help but bring along sympathetic orcs, goblins, kobalds, etc.... (Though I tend to treat more supernatural creatures like undead, dragons, etc... more like the second type). However, it is really up to the world you want to create.

Very well put. This is always one of the questions we ask toward a DM when we start playing a game -- what is the general belief about whether evil races (especially humanoid ones) are intrinsically evil or not. An unwillingness to commit to an answer raises some red flags, role-playing wise. (I'm not insisting that the DM tell us the true answer, just what our characters are likely to believe.)
Are you just trying to be inflammatory?

Do you really think Zousha_Omenohu's comment was inflammatory and trolling? Methinks thou has read far too much into Z-O's post.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
OK, I didn't mean literally sharks with pointed ears. Just socially. According to the article, Drow society is extremely cut-throat and full of backstabbing. Most Drow don't make it to adulthood. Lethal combats to advance to the next position are common. There is very little familial loyalty, and what there is is based on fear. In the rare case that a drow becomes pregnant with twins, so filled with hatred etc. are they that one of the fetuses will kill the other.

In order to maintain population, they must breed like orcs.

So rather than being the dark side of elves, as in everything written previously, they are something rather less interesting.

I've always thought of drow as being very much like elves, except twisted. They are into the arts, except theirs involve inflicting pain. They are very loyal to their families, so much so that they will practice evil acts on other families. They have an innate sense of superiority, so much so that they enslave other races. That sort of thing. The characture presented in that particular ecology article was so extreme that, even by D&D standards, it couldn't be taken seriously.

Oh yeah, they seem to shop at Frederick's of Mordor.

Ohh, okay. That's an interesting take on Drow society, one I've never heard. Your view of Drow and mine are pretty much equivalent. Either way, both interpretations still fit the bill of evil, but not ugly or monstrous.
Are you just trying to be inflammatory?

While this may be an attitude that many gamers have historically adopted, I don't believe it was ever encouraged by RAW (even back in first edition, I distinctly recall the published adventures giving the PC's option to parlay with many intelligent monsters rather than necessarily having to fight them). You are taking the ideas of one school of gamer thought and trying to pass it off as Word of God, when in reality the publishers have never explicitly advocated it.

In fact, I'm tempted to say that the game designers officially REJECTED this paradigm from 3.5e onward, when they started including PC writeups for any intelligent creature that could be considered even remotely playable. In 4e, the downplaying of alignment only furthers this trend.

In short, I hope you're just trolling.

Just because the paradigm is there doesn't mean that I agree with it. I am fully in support of "monstrous" PCs. Hell, in the campaign setting I'm co-authoring, we have several entire cities run by orcs, kobolds, minotaurs and the like, that aren't evil. I was merely attempting to illustrate one view of how the question is treated.

I mean, think about it. If the concept that almost all the "monsters" out there are in fact people, this makes the career of adventuring little more than legalized murder/robbery. Even the paladin becomes a horrible monster who kills without mercy and steals someone's hard-earned gold.

Maybe I've simply been reading Goblins too much, but it seems to me that when you think of the "monsters" as people it leads to all sorts of depressing moral quandaries that not only make you question the ethics of your own adventuring profession, but bog down gameplay as well.

I've been there. In a game before I started playing in it, the group spent an hour or so debating whether to let a pair of werewolf pups, whose parents had already been killed by the party, to live. Eventually, the kobold sorcerer (now infected with lycanthropy,) grew tired of the debate and killed the pups. The DM immediately shifted his alignment to Chaotic Evil, more for going behind the party's back than for the actual deed itself. Then later, when my paladin joined, our halfling treehugger begged us to spare a griffin that had just killed and eaten an entire village together with its mate, that was threatening a local herd of pegasi, and whose wing my paladin had practically sheared off with a critical hit. He was so insistent about it that he had us stand back with our bows while he healed the griffin up to consiousness. Naturally, she wasn't in the mood for negotiations, so we put her down. And then the treehugger tried to argue for not giving the griffin's eggs to the local Empress, who'd sent us there to deal with the griffins and bring back the eggs. We handed the eggs in, since we didn't want to **** off the empress.

I don't know if I'm trolling or not. I was looking for some debate on this paradigm, but I didn't mean it maliciously.
Humans have difficulty even treating other humans as "Persons". (Racism?)
Having different sexual orientations or different religions is enough to get large segments of the population consider others less than a person.

So I think it's a matter of "they don't contradict our beliefs", and they wanna bang them. ;)
Or they have inherently "redeeming" qualities. Ex: Meepo & Deekin were cute (and non-threatening), etc.
Ohh, okay. That's an interesting take on Drow society, one I've never heard. Your view of Drow and mine are pretty much equivalent. Either way, both interpretations still fit the bill of evil, but not ugly or monstrous.

I think that the cool part of making them very like elves, but just twisted, is that it is much scarier for the players running elves when they deal with drow.
My Minotaurs have French accents :p
58292718 wrote:
I love Horseshoecrabfolk. What I love most about them is that they seem to be the one thing that we all can agree on.
See for yourself, click here!
> Ex: Meepo & Deekin were cute (and non-threatening), etc.

I wouldn't exactly call Deekin non-threatening, though he could do a pretty good job of *pretending* not to be.
> Ex: Meepo & Deekin were cute (and non-threatening), etc.

I wouldn't exactly call Deekin non-threatening, though he could do a pretty good job of *pretending* not to be.

Wasn't Deekin a 3e kobold bard? I can't imagine I would ever consider him threatening, personally.
Deekin was our sidekick though, so he wasn't really a threat. :P

He gets so happy to be your friend and sticks with you through the expansions. Then a cameo in NWN2!
Pretty much all sentients are 'people'. It's just that some of them happen to be monsters as well. For example, if it eats people, it's a monster. In general, if it can't live within the limits of civil society, it's a monster.

I don't generally deeply examine the morality of the situation when I'm playing D&D, but I generally figure that the chaotic evil races are solipsistic and the evil races don't recognize the person-hood of anyone outside their own race. Whether this is cultural or genetic I don't try to address.
Pretty much all sentients are 'people'. It's just that some of them happen to be monsters as well. For example, if it eats people, it's a monster. In general, if it can't live within the limits of civil society, it's a monster.

I don't generally deeply examine the morality of the situation when I'm playing D&D, but I generally figure that the chaotic evil races are solipsistic and the evil races don't recognize the person-hood of anyone outside their own race. Whether this is cultural or genetic I don't try to address.

But what about the non-chaotic evil members of those races? Take Goblins for example. Characters like Thaco, Complains-About-Names and the rest of the cast of Goblins certainly aren't solipsistic, while the humans and other races like elves are almost universally cruel bigots who think there's nothing wrong with torturing them. And then there's Kore, the dwarf paladin who kills a dwarf child raised by a well-meaning orc merchant because evil, even potential evil, must be eradicated.

Am I just reading it too much? I look at the atrocities that people like the Goblin Slayer and Kore commit and I think "The average adventurer does that all the time! What kind of effdup system of values is that?!"
But what about the non-chaotic evil members of those races? Take Goblins for example.

That's easy. The goblins in the Goblins comic are not D&D goblins, or at least not remotely typical D&D goblins. A given world can certainly decide that goblins are not evil, but under vanilla D&D goblins are evil.
I don't know if I'm trolling or not. I was looking for some debate on this paradigm, but I didn't mean it maliciously.

The way you presented it in your first post made it seem like you were saying that this was the way it works by default, which is a trollish statement. If you had said "what bothers me is when people act as if..." instead of "this is how it is," I would have understood what you meant.

In any case, I'm sorry for barking at you without thinking more carefully first.

Am I just reading it too much? I look at the atrocities that people like the Goblin Slayer and Kore commit and I think "The average adventurer does that all the time! What kind of effdup system of values is that?!"

I've been in many games, as both a player and a DM, and never once have I seen this happen. I think you may just be gaming with the wrong people.
I don't know if the other people I game with have even read Goblins though. The only reason the treehugger objected to the slaying of the griffins was because of the protection of nature and stuff.

In another game we're fighting a bunch of goblins who took over a small village. We saw some of them accosting a little girl. My paladin wanted to negotiate for the girl's release, and hopefully find her parents if they were still alive. Our warforged fighter's response was "I have a better idea. KILL THEM ALL!" And then he charged at the goblins, who responded by cutting the girl's throat. Both me and my paladin were furious at the girl's death. Mad at the warforged for pulling a Leeroy Jenkins, mad at the party for not stopping him, and mad at the goblins for murdering her in cold blood.

The thing is, there's also a city partially populated by goblins elsewhere in the campaign world, as part of a sort of confederacy of city states populated entirely by the monstrous races, who don't go about raiding villages.

How does one reconcile seeing goblins who are gutless murderers one minute, and then seeing other goblins as civilized city dwellers. As a co-author for the campaign setting in question, it's really bugged me.
How does one reconcile seeing goblins who are gutless murderers one minute, and then seeing other goblins as civilized city dwellers. As a co-author for the campaign setting in question, it's really bugged me.

The campaign setting I'm co-DMing is mostly populated by humans. Therefore there is no question that sometimes they are "evil" and sometimes they are "good". I'm playing a gnoll at the moment in that campaign, and we previously had a drow and a doppelganger in the party, so if anything our party might attract some of those "omg kill it" responses from NPCs, lol.
We have a doppleganger in our party too. "She's" a cleric of the Raven Queen and the former lesbian lover of our party leader.
How does one reconcile seeing humans who are gutless murderers one minute, and then seeing other humans as civilized city dwellers. As an inhabitant of planet Earth, it's really bugged me.

Fixed it for you, hopefully in a way that answers your question.
...I suppose that's true, but I'm not a mighty paladin of the sun god in real life.
How does one reconcile seeing goblins who are gutless murderers one minute, and then seeing other goblins as civilized city dwellers. As a co-author for the campaign setting in question, it's really bugged me.

How do you reconcile seeing humans who are gutless murderers one minute, and other humans who are civilized city dwellers? The first group could easily have been evil due to being bandits, rather than due to being goblins, or they could be members of some malignant culture that considers the slaughter of humans desirable. Also, it's possible to be civilized and evil as well. Civilized and chaotic evil requires a lot of handwaving, but vanilla evil doesn't forbid cities.

The most simplest 'evil' culture option is "If they're not goblins, they're lesser creatures, and can be killed or enslaved at will". This is, of course, an evil option open to humans as well.
I subscribe to the concept that "Person-hood" is predicated solely on the principle of having intellegence and sapience (by which I mean self-will).

A Gnome, a dragon, a unicorn, a kobold, and a ithiliad are all People.

A Golem, regaurdless of raw intellect, is not, unless it's free-willed. I smart tool is still a tool.

A warforged IS a person, because it has free-will.


I hold the following beliefs.

Eating the flesh of an intellegent being is Canabalism, even if they are a totally different species. For a man to eat the flesh of a unicorn or dragon (in a fantasy setting obviously) is just as wrong as for him to eat the flesh of another man.

Within the confines of the special morality of a fantasy setting where killing is considered permissable in the service of the greater good, killing other "People" is permissable if it serves the greater good.

Ergo, it's not Okay to kill a dragon because it's a big scaly thing that doesn't look like a people, it's only okay to kill the dragon because the dragon is itself Evil, or doing evil things such as hunting OTHER intellegent creatures for food.

Killing defenseless Kobold women and children is wrong, for the same reason that killing defenseless HUMAN women and children is wrong.
Killing Kobold women and children that attack you with spears is okay, for the same reason that killing human women and children who are attacking you with weapons would be okay.

AND IF YOU WOULDN'T FEEL GOOD ABOUT ONE, YOU SHOULDN'T FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE OTHER.

How does one reconcile seeing goblins who are gutless murderers one minute, and then seeing other goblins as civilized city dwellers. As a co-author for the campaign setting in question, it's really bugged me.

So, to me that seems a little like saying, "Well, all these Humans are Blood of Vol cultists, and kidnap people to feed their undead lords, so we'd better go over here to Flame Keep and kill these guys as well, since they're ALSO human and therefore ALSO part of an undeath cult that preys on innocents."

I don't really understand why we can accept these broad dichotamies in Humans, but not in fantasy races.

Okay, so, in every mountain range and every fen near every human settlement in the world, there's a nest of goblins, and these goblins breed at roughly 4 times the rate of humans, and every nest has roughly 3 times the population of the closest human village. But somehow, ALL GOBLINS ARE ALWAYS EVIL, there just aren't enough of them for there to be diversity amoung them.

EDIT: Ninja'd twice, by both Space_Dragon and AnthonyJ.
But yeah.
Brew'N Games: A Homebrewing Blog, Both Games and Beer. "The Sky is Falling Like a Sock of Cocaine in the Ministry of Information..." - Man Man, Black Mission Goggles
I believe the term is sentience, as sapience implies a humanoid shape (**** Sapien).

That said, I think that any group of people would only consider those few who shared a similar culture and held similar believes to their own as people. Of course this is all dependent on how culturally advanced a civilization is. For example, early American settlers often considered the natives as less than human. Despite their physical similarities.

Another example would be how the Western cultures viewed the Eastern cultures as barbaric, and the same was true in the reverse. The cultures and beliefs conflicted in radical ways that neither side could accept.

Now that we have easy communication and public education, however, we are more readily able to learn about and come to appreciate other cultures.

"Evil" seems, to me, to mean the inability or refusal to live in a socially accepted way. Killing people doesn't exactly help a society better itself, so it's evil. So beings like that also would no likely be considered "people."

I think similar principles would apply in a Fantasy setting, depending on how realistic you want it anyway. Sometimes it's just easiest to declare goblins and their ilk as inherently evil to avoid any moral indecision in decimating the buggers. :P
I believe the term is sentience, as sapience implies a humanoid shape (**** Sapien).

"Sapiens" literally translates as "wise." Humans are called that because they are intelligent, not vice versa.

What implies the humanoid shape is ****, for hominid.