Good vs Evil (An alignment discussion, oh joy!)

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This might relate to 4E as well, but mainly 3E since it has all 9 alignments. Though I am only interested on people's thoughts as it relates to Good vs. Evil.

So, every once in awhile, my group likes to do a good ole fashioned alignment debate. This one was about Good vs Evil and Intentions vs Actions.

The quick question is, what makes a person Good or Evil? Is it their intentions or inner most thoughts/passions, or is it their actions? I pose to you a couple of scenarios...

Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Scenario 2) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. He knows it is wrong and actively fights against these urges. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Scenario 3) A goblin is trapped on a desserted island. Consider that goblins are typically evil, but this goblin has been trapped on this island alone. He didn't really have the chance to do anything "evil" since he is all by himself. A Paladin rows by and sees him fishing off the shore. The Paladin sails within range and uses Detect Evil on the goblin. What would he show up as?

In Scenario 1, the cobbler has evil thoughts but doesn't act on them only because of fear of the law. Is this different from Scenario 2, where he recognizes they are evil thoughts and has to fight the urges on a daily basis? And is this different from the stranded goblin, whose only reason for not doing anything "evil" was for lack of opportunity?

My one friend says that a person's inner most thoughts/passions/intentions is what makes them evil, even if no evil act was done. He argues that it takes a certain person to feel or think those ways. It is almost part of their make-up.

My other friend says that, the person would not show up as Evil until they actually acted upon those evil thoughts. You can't blame a person for thoughts alone, after all, it could be a mentally sick person who thinks these things through no fault of their own. Until the evil ACT is committed, they should not show up as evil.

Me? I see both sides of the arguement, so I am undecided.

Bonus Scenario. Gonna flip this around and ask about the Good side...

A poor person who is very selfless wants to help others out, but being poor, it makes it kind of hard for them to do so, because they do have their own well being to think of. They would like to give money to charity, but since they are poor, they can not (their intentions are good, but they can not act upon them).

A very rich person on the other hand gives to charity, but not because they are feeling charitable. They do it for a tax write-off, and only give the maximum amount of money to the charity as they would get back in taxes (so their intentions aren't good, but their actions would seem otherwise).

Casting Detect Good, how would these two people show up?
Alignment is not just about one instance. For example, the individual who wants to kill people, but fears being caught is most likely doing vile deals he knows he won't be caught for. Maybe he's overcharging a bit on his prices, or he's intentionally leaving a few stitches off on his shoes to give him repair work in a few months. His desire to inflict 'evil' on people would shine through in other actions where he feels safe.
My answer (for what it's worth) is this: the Good/Evil axis represents your intentions, while the Law/Chaos axis represents your behavior. For instance - if the only thing that keeps you from harming others is fear of punishment, you're Lawful Evil.
"The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else." -Umberto Eco, from Travels in Hyperreality "The first adventurer was a nuisance. I am sure he acted against his mother's, his wife's, and the council of old men's strict orders when he did it; but it was he that found where the mammoths die and where after a thousand years of use there was still enough ivory to equip the entire tribe with weapons. Such is the ultimate outline of the adventurer; society's benefactor as well as pest." -William Bolitho, from Twelve Against the Gods
Heres my take on it.

Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral with evil tendencies since he wont act evil just because of the consequences. He probably wont ever act good though either. Probably not a friendly person.

Scenario 2) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. He knows it is wrong and actively fights against these urges. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral with good tendencies. Pretty much opposite of the first guy. No good person would seriously have to actively fight against the urge to kill a customer who is buying shoes, but since he doesnt do it because of his morals, i would lean him towards good.

Scenario 3) A goblin is trapped on a desserted island. Consider that goblins are typically evil, but this goblin has been trapped on this island alone. He didn't really have the chance to do anything "evil" since he is all by himself. A Paladin rows by and sees him fishing off the shore. The Paladin sails within range and uses Detect Evil on the goblin. What would he show up as?

Id start him at True Neutral unless you just wanted to go off RaW (in the MM). Pretty easy.

Bonus Scenario. Gonna flip this around and ask about the Good side...

A poor person who is very selfless wants to help others out, but being poor, it makes it kind of hard for them to do so, because they do have their own well being to think of. They would like to give money to charity, but since they are poor, they can not (their intentions are good, but they can not act upon them).

Definitely good. I dont think this can be argued since you labeled him as "very selfless"

A very rich person on the other hand gives to charity, but not because they are feeling charitable. They do it for a tax write-off, and only give the maximum amount of money to the charity as they would get back in taxes (so their intentions aren't good, but their actions would seem otherwise).

Casting Detect Good, how would these two people show up?

Again, neutral with good tendencies. He's selfish, not evil.


A little gray areas, but you only give one situation per person. More details about their life might help make more solid conclusions.
This might relate to 4E as well, but mainly 3E since it has all 9 alignments. Though I am only interested on people's thoughts as it relates to Good vs. Evil.

So, every once in awhile, my group likes to do a good ole fashioned alignment debate. This one was about Good vs Evil and Intentions vs Actions.

The quick question is, what makes a person Good or Evil? Is it their intentions or inner most thoughts/passions, or is it their actions? I pose to you a couple of scenarios...

This is actually a very deep, mostly unanswered philosophical question. Kant, Nietzsche, Rand, and plenty of others have all tried to tackle it and come up with different and even conflicting solutions.
My answer (for what it's worth) is this: the Good/Evil axis represents your intentions, while the Law/Chaos axis represents your behavior. For instance - if the only thing that keeps you from harming others is fear of punishment, you're Lawful Evil.

This is pretty close to my own take on the alignments... I break it down thus:

Law = "I do what I'm supposed to do..."
Chaos = " I do what I want to do..."
Neutral = "I do what I do..."

Good = "...to ensure others are better off."
Evil = "...to ensure I am better off."
Neutral = "...regardless of who benefits."

So the Lawful Evil "motto" is (in my system) "I do what I'm supposed to do to ensure I am better off."

As for your examples, it's hard to assess alignment in a vacuum -- it strays into a 1984-ish indictment of thoughtcrime, where merely intentions/thoughts (and not actions) are judged.

Returned from hiatus; getting up to speed on 5e rules lawyering.

This is pretty close to my own take on the alignments... I break it down thus:

Law = "I do what I'm supposed to do..."
Chaos = " I do what I want to do..."
Neutral = "I do what I do..."

Good = "...to ensure others are better off."
Evil = "...to ensure I am better off."
Neutral = "...regardless of who benefits."

So the Lawful Evil "motto" is (in my system) "I do what I'm supposed to do to ensure I am better off."

As for your examples, it's hard to assess alignment in a vacuum -- it strays into a 1984-ish indictment of thoughtcrime, where merely intentions/thoughts (and not actions) are judged.

Wow...I heart that description, going to use it whenever alignment issues start popping up in my groups, usually have a hard time explaining it but that's simple and awesomely easy to understand *high fives*
Its not the answer that matters, its the questions. This is the sarcasm point ---> {.) the period can be substituted for whatever punctuation mark is appropriate. Use it so show sarcasm in written text.
cobler a: evil. he desires the suffering of others for his own selfish reasons. refrains only for his own selfish reasons. who knows what else he's doing.

cobler b: good. this guy isn't a bad person: he's just insane. however, he's insane responsibly and capable of functioning is socity to a certain extent. he obviously recognizes morality and understands right and wrong, and is thus no danger to good-aligned people no matter how off his rocker he is.

stranded goblin: depends on what said goblin has been thinking this whole time. if it's been "this island is beutiful! listen to the ocean! look at the crabs! they walk sideways haha! life is great!" then the goblin is good aligned and I'd bet he'd probably become a good-aligned druid or ranger if re-introduced to the mainland. if it's just "I'm bored. I'm hungry." then you've got a neutral goblin: he hasn't spent his time getting all optimistic and philisophical like goblin a, and doesn't really hold a whole lot of concern for the living things around him. however, he also is only thinking about his base needs that everyone thinks about. if he's been thinking "this sucks. I've run out of things to kill for my amusement" or "someone will pay for this" or "this sucks, "I deserve a big mansion with many concubines to make of for this unjust torture" you've got an evil goblin.

the poor person: good. if we could do the act of good he would.

the rich person: good, neutral, or evil depending on other circumstances.

good: there was another tax write-off and he chose charity

neutral: he did it because it was nessicary for something

evil: he did it because he was greedy

so is it intent or action that determines one's alignment? both.

you see, if it was only intent, then almost all characters, even the bbeg, would be good aligned. most acts of evil are done with the greater good in mind, without the realization that the ends will not justify the means if the means are dark enough, and that the ends may not have the desired effect or be as good as advertised. if it was purely intent, Hitler would be lawful good, because that's what he wanted and that was the cause he thought he was advancing. the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

go purely on action, and all the above people save the rich guy who donated for the wrong reasons would be neutral, and rich guy would be good. yea-no.

actions must be backed by intention, and intention by actions. however there are exceptions, such as the poor person: the question becomes "if he could back his intentions with actions, would he?" the awnser is "yes", which makes him good aligned.

cobbler b has both good and evil thoughts (like most people, though maybe not to that extreme) but since he makes active desicions on the good ones to his own inconveneince, he is good.

etcetera, etcetera.
All good responses everyone. I have a follow up question with regards to the stranded gobin.

Let's assume the Paladin's code is to strike down evil whenever he encounters it. He sails by and the goblin and that goblin pings "Evil". Is the Paladin within his right to attack and kill the goblin (who is just there, minding his own business, fishing)? The Paladin can assume that, while the goblin is evil, he must have done evil at some point in his past, he hasn't done anything evil while stranded on the island alone.
it is NEVER ok, in my opinion, for a good aligned character to kill an evil-aligned one just for pinging evil. if the goblin doesn't seem to be a threat to anyone or anything, the paladin should draw his prayerbook, not his sword. +1 good guy and -1 badguy is better than just -1 badguy.

only when it becomes clear that the baddie poses a threat to some being, should the good aligned character attack. this varies with the entity in question: with a lone goblin, the paladin has all the time in the world to reason with him. against a demon, he should draw his blade first thing.
Stepping away from the philosophical debate for a second, many DMs and players know how annoying it is for a Paladin character to think he is totally justified in killing anyone who dings "Evil"... there are any number of reasons this could happen, and any number of solutions... death may not be the right solution, and especially death that is justified only by an evil ding. That's called Chaotic Stupid...
I made an awesome flowchart, but gleemax kept ruining it.
I personally think it has to do more with your mentality than your action.

How many justification can you give yourself?

Let's take this guy:

A poor person who is very selfless wants to help others out, but being poor, it makes it kind of hard for them to do so, because they do have their own well being to think of. They would like to give money to charity, but since they are poor, they can not (their intentions are good, but they can not act upon them).

They'll come a time, during a harsh winter, where he has to face starvation or stealing. It's a petty crime. It doesn't hurt anyone right? And odds are if they understood his situation, they'd give it to him instead of him having to steal.

So he steals... and he feels bad about it. But he can actually eat. So he justify it by saying that this was necessary for his survival, that he had no choice.

It's a slippery slope... he might slip, and he keeps stealing. And where he used to fell bad about it, he doesn't anymore. In fact, he starts to blame other for his theft - if society wasn't so screwd up, he wouldn't have to do this.

And so forth.

The first time he steals, he doesn't automatically become evil. But it opens up the danger of moral justification, which is what can end up making you evil.

I also believe that people that are evil... with the exception of some chaotic evil 'muahaha! I want to destroy the world!' type... don't actually see a bad guy when they look in the mirror. They have convinced themselves that what they do is normal and just.
The favorite line I have generated on this topic is this.
The Nazis thought they were lawful good.
The point being that it is all about perception you know. What one person will consider a evil act, maybe a normal custom to someone else. Take the issue of slavery. Slavery we all agree is an evil practice and getting rid of it was good. However, rewind back to the old south and it was neither good nor evil it was just like buying a tractor or a huge thresher the slaves were just equipment to them. The point being the society you live in dictates what you believe good and evil are.

Edit: and just to be clear no I am not pro-Nazi or pro-slavery.
In third edition, a creature's general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment. This is explicitly stated within the rules as the mechanic's purpose.

The question, then, is which application of alignment best serves to make alignment a representation of a creature's general moral and personal attitudes? We can either use their actions or their attitudes. Hmm, I wonder which would would more accurately reflect their general moral and personal attitudes: their actions or their general moral and personal attitudes?

I cannot even see how this is a question.
Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

So, basically, you want to know if Al Bundy is evil?

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The favorite line I have generated on this topic is this.
The Nazis thought they were lawful good.
The point being that it is all about perception you know. What one person will consider a evil act, maybe a normal custom to someone else. Take the issue of slavery. Slavery we all agree is an evil practice and getting rid of it was good. However, rewind back to the old south and it was neither good nor evil it was just like buying a tractor or a huge thresher the slaves were just equipment to them. The point being the society you live in dictates what you believe good and evil are.

Edit: and just to be clear no I am not pro-Nazi or pro-slavery.

I see what you're trying to say, but I want to be clear. Are you saying that now that it is over and we see the truth, that slavery and Nazism is wrong...but that back then, when people thought it was good and right, then for them it was? That is moral relativism, and if that is what you think, then you are just saying you're not pro-Nazi anymore... but back then you'd have to admit that it is right for some people, and that's ok.

If you're saying that people thought it was ok, sure, but the reason we know it is wrong now, is because it is innately wrong, and has always been wrong (we just didn't know until now) then that is fine. The only problem I see is if you say good intentions are enough for good, in a way, you are pro-"other people being nazis". However, if your point was that different societies may be blind to truths of good and evil based on their culture's beliefs, but what they believe to be good may actually be evil then you're right, you are not pro-nazis or pro-slavery.
The quick question is, what makes a person Good or Evil? Is it their intentions or inner most thoughts/passions, or is it their actions?

Actions determine alignment.
Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Just before the Paladin walks in the store he thinks to himself how often he has earnestly wanted to kill the Prince but never has. Thinking about it is not Evil. Doing it is. And whether or not a given act changes your alignment depends on how consistent the act is with your given alignment. That means that WHY you do something can be more important than what you do.

For example, the Paladin may want to kill the Prince because of the Prince's vile acts and policies. Killing the Prince could be right and just. The cobbler may want to rob his potential victims. That's totally heinous but still less vile than if he wanted to kill them for the fun of it. If the cobbler were neutral or chaotic in alignment the killings he's contemplating would be less significant than if he were good or lawful. If the cobbler is already evil then the killings would already be consistent with his alignment.

But if the cobbler THINKS about committing murder while nonetheless repeatedly and consistently ACTING as a decent citizen then for purposes of alignment in the game (and that is an important distinction) he is not evil. His vile thoughts are much more significant in how they affect his personality, but don't impact his alignment at all.

What the Paladin would actually detect depends specifically on what edition of the game you are playing. Particularly I'm thinking of Second Edition where Detect Evil would tell you if there were good or evil, but for determining actual alignment the target would have to be 9th level or better and intent on appropriate actions. That is, if the cobbler were evil, he'd be detected as evil but unless he were 9th level and actually INTENDING to kill a customer his specific alignment could not be determined by the Paladin.

Scenario 2) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. He knows it is wrong and actively fights against these urges. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Same as scenario #1. For game purposes, he's not evil unless he does evil.

Scenario 3) A goblin is trapped on a desserted island. Consider that goblins are typically evil, but this goblin has been trapped on this island alone. He didn't really have the chance to do anything "evil" since he is all by himself. A Paladin rows by and sees him fishing off the shore. The Paladin sails within range and uses Detect Evil on the goblin. What would he show up as?

He'd show up as his default alignment as a rule. This scenario does stretch possibilities a bit past where alignment is meant to work.

Whatever alignment may have originally been intended to do - if anything - what it became was a guide for roleplaying. Much of the difficulties with alignment stem from the fact that for a roleplaying guide it still has a lot of "crunchy" rules trappings within the game leftover from earlier editions when its PURPOSE in being included in the game was more arbitrary.

To CHANGE his alignment the goblin really should be doing good acts. This scenario, however, assumes a very narrow set of circumstances where that can't happen. So, by rights, if the goblin was evil when he became marooned then he's evil now and he'd detect appropriately. As a guide to roleplaying alignment isn't there to dictate your actions, but to provide you a guide as to what your actions should be. If the goblin really has had some kind of religious/philosophical epiphany or change of heart then yeah, it's appropriate to change his alignment without his actually DOING things to change his alignment.

Alignment isn't a hammer for a DM to beat players upside the head with. It's supposed to be there to HELP, not to interfere with characterization and roleplaying.

My one friend says that a person's inner most thoughts/passions/intentions is what makes them evil, even if no evil act was done.

In the real world this may be true. But don't make the mistake of trying to make the vague game-element of alignment apply to REAL WORLD morality, ethics, philosophy and religion. Its purpose in the game should be to guide players to roleplay their characters reasonably and consistently. It does this by acting as a vague shorthand that usefully substitutes for tedious reams of detailed information on a characters beliefs on morality and philosophy. So in the game the important thing is what the character DOES, not what he thinks.

Alignment is not a SUBSTITUTE for morality, ethics, personality, religion, and personality - but it has a lot of bearing on what those will be for a given character. That's what makes it a useful roleplaying guide.

A poor person who is very selfless wants to help others out, but being poor, it makes it kind of hard for them to do so, because they do have their own well being to think of. They would like to give money to charity, but since they are poor, they can not (their intentions are good, but they can not act upon them).

A very rich person on the other hand gives to charity, but not because they are feeling charitable. They do it for a tax write-off, and only give the maximum amount of money to the charity as they would get back in taxes (so their intentions aren't good, but their actions would seem otherwise).

Casting Detect Good, how would these two people show up?

Firstly, this smacks of trying to apply alignment to the real world with the talk of tax write-offs and such. Alignment is a GAME MECHANIC for guiding roleplaying. It has absolutely no use in application to real-world morality and only vaguely reflects any real-world morality because that makes a useful guide for consistent roleplaying.

As far as this example goes for in-game purposes its largely irrelevant. There aren't any alignment rules that even suggest there's a required dollar amount of donation needed to maintain your good-alignment integrity. What would be significant would be whether either of them is being selfless and making sacrifices in order to donate money regardless of the actual amount. And what ELSE do these individuals do? If the poor character can't donate money does he do good deeds in other ways? Would he go to the rich character and try to PROCURE the donations for charity? Would he go to the charity and tell them that there's a rich, potential doner?

It's your actions that determine whether your alignment changes, but you don't have to maintain your alignment with an assortment of REQUIRED actions performed regularly lest your alignment FAIL in some way. Alignment NEVER dicatates actions anyway. It can't, because if it did then players would have no choices in what their characters could or would do. A good-aligned cobbler decides to murder a customer but CAN'T because his alignment won't LET him?! A good-aligned poor character starves to death because his alignment REQUIRES that he donate money to charity?!

Alignment is about helping players decide upon reasonable and consistent actions for their characters. Changes in alignment are called for only when the actions that a player DOES choose are not consistent with the alignment that is intended to DESCRIBE their character.

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"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

So even if said goblin thought nothing but good thoughts, had nothing but good intentions, and wanted nothing but what is just, he's still evil because he couldn't find enough good acts to do to change his alignment on a deserted island? I mean, what act of good can he do stranded alone? any attempts to help one animal would be taking food out of another's mouth, and there are no civilized beings to interact with, no charities to donate to, no weak and poor to help, no sick and injured to heal, and no demons to slay. so it's just "too bad, you're still evil" for him is it? I don't buy that.

alignment must be based on both action and intent. if it's always intent, everybody is good-aligned save a handful of complete psychopaths. if it's only action, then poor apifiany the goblin is screwed the second an overzealous paladin sails by.

if said character is unable to commit any good acts, ask yourself if he had the option, would he? if the awnser is "yes, given the option to do good, even at personal expense, this character would" then he's good aligned.
So even if said goblin thought nothing but good thoughts, had nothing but good intentions, and wanted nothing but what is just, he's still evil because he couldn't find enough good acts to do to change his alignment on a deserted island?

I think you misread. If he's evil before he gets to the island and nothing happens to change that... well his alignment generally doesn't change. If the character were run by a player then for game purposes it is preferable that he change the characters alignment simply by demonstrating the change. However, if he's isolated on an island then for game purposes that doesn't work, does it? As you say there are no good or evil acts to perform when alone on an island except maybe torturing/healing the birds and squirrels. If, however, the player wants the character to change alignments in this very narrowly defined set of circumstances an exception should clearly be made.

The intended and always preferred means is for actions to dictate alignment. Only when circumstances make it thoroughly impractical for that to be done would the players intent for the character supersede the necessity for actions. Alignment is a tool for roleplaying - a guide for roleplaying. A player can have his character "intend" and "think" all through the game session - but if the only thing that is seen during play reveals nothing about the characters intentions and thoughts then none of the intent and thoughts should have any effect on change in the characters alignment. If a player wants a character to be evil - have the character do evil. If he wants the character to be good - then have the character do good.

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"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

The quick question is, what makes a person Good or Evil? Is it their intentions or inner most thoughts/passions, or is it their actions?

The two can not be entirely separated. Evil acts can be done with good intentions, and good acts may be motivated by evil intentions.

A paladin might attack a good person because they have bad information about who the assassin is. And it's perfectly possible to heal somebody just because your setting up a fall guy for your assassination.

In essence, what you are arguing here is Consequentialism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism) vs Deontological (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics) ethics. Philosophers have been debating this one since the time of the Greeks.

Getting back to your specific examples
Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral, possibly with evil tendencies. It would depend a bit on exactly why he thinks about killing them. If he has random thoughts about killing them, it's insanity, which isn't evil. If he would like to off them because he is jealous of people wealthier then him, it's evil intentions. If he wants to take out one annoying noble woman who constantly berates him and his shoes but comes back and buys another pair every week, he might be justified in thinking about it.

Scenario 2) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. He knows it is wrong and actively fights against these urges. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral. This is more clearly insanity.

Scenario 3) A goblin is trapped on a desserted island. Consider that goblins are typically evil, but this goblin has been trapped on this island alone. He didn't really have the chance to do anything "evil" since he is all by himself. A Paladin rows by and sees him fishing off the shore. The Paladin sails within range and uses Detect Evil on the goblin.

Depends on the goblin. Neutral or evil depending on where the goblins intentions and actions lie. His isolation on the island does reduce his opportunities to commit evil acts, which would bias him towards neutral, but if he is mean enough he could still come up evil.

Jay
I see what you're trying to say, but I want to be clear. Are you saying that now that it is over and we see the truth, that slavery and Nazism is wrong...but that back then, when people thought it was good and right, then for them it was? That is moral relativism, and if that is what you think, then you are just saying you're not pro-Nazi anymore... but back then you'd have to admit that it is right for some people, and that's ok.

If you're saying that people thought it was ok, sure, but the reason we know it is wrong now, is because it is innately wrong, and has always been wrong (we just didn't know until now) then that is fine. The only problem I see is if you say good intentions are enough for good, in a way, you are pro-"other people being nazis". However, if your point was that different societies may be blind to truths of good and evil based on their culture's beliefs, but what they believe to be good may actually be evil then you're right, you are not pro-nazis or pro-slavery.

My point was that the society you live determines what you perceive as being good and what you perceive as being evil. Whether or not your culture views the act of another culture as evil determines what you believe to a large extent. This is true in all societies there are always small populations that fall outside the view of the greater hole. For the most part though people just like to follow along with the herd.
I do not want to turn this into a discussion about what is absolutely morally right and morally wrong, because that has been debated by man since they formed culture and nothing ever gets solved.
I think you misread. If he's evil before he gets to the island and nothing happens to change that... well his alignment generally doesn't change. If the character were run by a player then for game purposes it is preferable that he change the characters alignment simply by demonstrating the change. However, if he's isolated on an island then for game purposes that doesn't work, does it? As you say there are no good or evil acts to perform when alone on an island except maybe torturing/healing the birds and squirrels. If, however, the player wants the character to change alignments in this very narrowly defined set of circumstances an exception should clearly be made.

The intended and always preferred means is for actions to dictate alignment. Only when circumstances make it thoroughly impractical for that to be done would the players intent for the character supersede the necessity for actions. Alignment is a tool for roleplaying - a guide for roleplaying. A player can have his character "intend" and "think" all through the game session - but if the only thing that is seen during play reveals nothing about the characters intentions and thoughts then none of the intent and thoughts should have any effect on change in the characters alignment. If a player wants a character to be evil - have the character do evil. If he wants the character to be good - then have the character do good.

but what if he had a sudden realization or the error of his ways and all that? he's still evil? he's doomed to the evil afterlife just because there was nowhere he could act on his new philosophy? you don't find that inherently wrong?

as you said, alignment is a roleplaying tool. making it as simple as "kill bad things, raise alignment, kill good things, lower alignment" is terrible for roleplaying. if actions are the only thing that determine alignment, it's impossible to have a lawful good villain or to have a mixed alignment adventuring party. intent must definatly be taken into account.

I personally find giving the players the ability to discern anyone's alignment to be an inherintly stupid one. (and that includes knowing their own alignment) all it does is promote "his alignment is evil. it's ok to kill him" thinking and removes all "is the bbeg in the right?" moral delimas. I once convinced my players to join a genocidal campagin by convincing them it was the right thing to do. (not in D&D. I don't actually play D&D. I come here to lurk because I'm bored and occasionally get drawn in to discussions) if they could've scanned the bad guy's alignment, or if they knew how their desicions affected their own alignment, that never would have happened. I often try and convince my players that the bad guys are actually good to test their resolve and judgement. and it's lead to some interesting things.
I think you misread. If he's evil before he gets to the island and nothing happens to change that... well his alignment generally doesn't change. If the character were run by a player then for game purposes it is preferable that he change the characters alignment simply by demonstrating the change. However, if he's isolated on an island then for game purposes that doesn't work, does it? As you say there are no good or evil acts to perform when alone on an island except maybe torturing/healing the birds and squirrels. If, however, the player wants the character to change alignments in this very narrowly defined set of circumstances an exception should clearly be made.

The intended and always preferred means is for actions to dictate alignment. Only when circumstances make it thoroughly impractical for that to be done would the players intent for the character supersede the necessity for actions. Alignment is a tool for roleplaying - a guide for roleplaying. A player can have his character "intend" and "think" all through the game session - but if the only thing that is seen during play reveals nothing about the characters intentions and thoughts then none of the intent and thoughts should have any effect on change in the characters alignment. If a player wants a character to be evil - have the character do evil. If he wants the character to be good - then have the character do good.

Personally, for an in game answer to this thread, I think Man in the Funny Hat is totally right here. Regardless of real life situations, this alignment system is for role-playing purposes. Realistically for players their actions dictate it. If one of my players is a paladin, and they think it is important to kill all the babies in a town to save others or something, I would still say it's an evil act and change their alignment. In game, acts have defined good and evil; this has to be the case when you have an alignment system that wants to categorize everyone.

As an aside, any NPC doesn't really need to have explained actions or thoughts; if the DM gives them an alignment, there is no need. If there is a goblin on the island, he should be whatever alignment the DM needs him to be; his actions and thoughts do not actually matter to the game. Want a good goblin on the island? Say he dings good, and don't worry too much about what happened unless they pry. In this case, you don't need him to have become good from being on the island... make up something easier to believe.

I used to have a friend that argued his character was good, but where they were from (in game of course) slavery was the norm. He said it was ok because they did not see the slaves as people, and so there was no evil intent. Again, Cultural Relativism. However, in a game with a set alignment system, there really has to be defined classifications, and so slavery had to be an evil act. Man in the Funny Hat has it; this is a game system, and has to be treated as such.
it's the whole idea of roleplaying to act like it's real and not just a game though?

I think it's unessicary to constrain yourself to "this is always good, this is always evil" thinking.
Alignment is based actions, not inner thoughts.
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I find it odd that so many people are unable to suspend their own ideas about morality when discussing alignment.

First of all, it is a game and thus the rules trump your beliefs. Second, alignment is not morality.
My answer (for what it's worth) is this: the Good/Evil axis represents your intentions, while the Law/Chaos axis represents your behavior. For instance - if the only thing that keeps you from harming others is fear of punishment, you're Lawful Evil.

This can also be turned around. The LG and CG characters both doing the same good thing, like saving a country from the attacks of a violent neighbouring kingdom, but for different intentions (the LG character wants to establish a firm society under law and the CG wants the people to be free from the tyranny of others).

Second, alignment is not morality.

This is the first time I've heard someone say this. Do tell what you think it is then.
it's the whole idea of roleplaying to act like it's real and not just a game though?

I think it's unessicary to constrain yourself to "this is always good, this is always evil" thinking.

The idea is to simulate a real kind of situation, but within the game. It's not realistic to discuss number of points in the Dexterity Ability, but we do it because it is a game mechanic. The alignment system is the same. We use it to have a realistic situation within a set of rules, but these rules are what make it a game, and what allows us to have a functioning world.

It can't all be make-believe, and there needs to be some structure to adhere to. Alignment is one of those structures that needs to be followed to maintain the balanced world (if you include it of course, 4e does not have this issue so much).

If alignment will have game mechanical effect in your campaign, then the rules must be set so they can be universally followed. In this situation, constraining yourself to "always good, always evil" is necessary to be following the rules.
but what if he had a sudden realization or the error of his ways and all that? he's still evil? he's doomed to the evil afterlife just because there was nowhere he could act on his new philosophy? you don't find that inherently wrong?

Then, as I've said twice now, you should overrule the usual requirement that his actions dictate his change in alignment, but only because the scenario assumes rare circumstances where the character is in isolation and for game purposes can't demonstrate the change.

Because alignment is a roleplaying tool it's useless and meaningless for just THINKING about changes in the characters behavior to affect it.

as you said, alignment is a roleplaying tool. making it as simple as "kill bad things, raise alignment, kill good things, lower alignment" is terrible for roleplaying. if actions are the only thing that determine alignment, it's impossible to have a lawful good villain or to have a mixed alignment adventuring party. intent must definatly be taken into account.

Impossible to have a LG villain? Well, yeah, by definition that's pretty much true - unless your "heroes" are evil or the character becomes the villain by CHANGING from LG.

For game purposes alignment isn't meant to be morally relative; it isn't useful for it to be morally relative. It's meant to be black-and-white so that it can usefully guide a player in deciding on actions for his character that are reasonable and consistent. When the player has his character act inconsistently with his established behavior, its alignment changes.

I personally find giving the players the ability to discern anyone's alignment to be an inherintly stupid one. (and that includes knowing their own alignment) all it does is promote "his alignment is evil. it's ok to kill him" thinking and removes all "is the bbeg in the right?" moral delimas.

And of course this was the view of alignment in earlier editions and works as a beneficial feature, not a drawback. The Paladin in particular then gets to act as the class was originally meant to - as judge, jury, and executioner and can use his inherent ability to detect evil to reliably identify creatures who he is not just ALLOWED to kill but INTENDED to kill. By contrast, more recent perspectives of alignment as morally relative would have paladins cast in the role of villain for killing evil creatures simply because they are evil - paladins who are OVERRULED by what is just and right, not paladins who exist to establish and enforce what is just and right.

I don't actually play D&D. I come here to lurk because I'm bored and occasionally get drawn in to discussions

Then, respectfully, I question whether you have much to really contribute to the discussion as it relates to D&D.

if they could've scanned the bad guy's alignment, or if they knew how their desicions affected their own alignment, that never would have happened. I often try and convince my players that the bad guys are actually good to test their resolve and judgement. and it's lead to some interesting things.

There is no doubt that alignment never has been used well within the game, given that it didn't have a clear purpose to be in the game when added in the first place except to somehow incorporate the concepts used by Moorcock and Anderson in their books. But time has seen it become established as a useful mechanic - if nonetheless frequently misunderstood and abused mechanic - for guiding roleplaying and even establishing some feel/tone for a given game.

It's a classic trope for bad guys to want the good guys to mistake their true intentions so as to be left unhindered to perpetrate their dirty deeds or even get unwitting assistance. Yes, it's terribly easy to bring that to a screeching halt if its so simple for PC's to reliably identify a potential opponent and his lies and true intentions. That was never intended as a drawback - it was intended as a feature. Spells like Detect Evil and Know Alignment came into the game to be a means of allowing just that - easy and reliable identification of the bad guys, their lies and intentions. They were wanted/needed BECAUSE of the possibility of a DM who often tries and convinces players that the bad guys are actually good to test their resolve and judgement. In particular in earlier editions when departure from alignment would have severe consequences - like loss of levels - such abilities were crucial to fight back against what would then be DM rules abuse.

As the idea of what alignment could actually be used for was refined those punishment tools were taken away from DM's, but the spells and other rules hooks for alignment remained in place, largely unchanged and unexamined in the light of a changed approach to alignment. Can't deny that that's an issue but it's hardly an insurmountable one. It certainly isn't sufficient grounds to dismiss Alignment out of hand as being entirely useless. If anything, because alignment remains a part of D&D - even if it's for reasons of mere tradition - it's better to reexamine alignment and fix it rather than just whinge that it's there at all and repeat the ways in which we already know it doesn't work.

Absent official game rules on the matter it behooves each individual DM to reexamine alignment and decide for himself what purpose alignment really should serve in his game, HOW it will go about serving that purpose, and then to present the results to players BEFORE it comes up in the game and becomes a problem.

Old School: It ain't what you play - it's how you play it.

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"Who says I can't?" "The man in the funny hat..."

It takes both intention and action to turn a person Good or Evil, so...
Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral. Everybody has daydreams about killing people who annoy them or who are rude or whatever. But that doesn't make any of us Evil; only those of us who act on those murderous impulses are Evil.
Scenario 2) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. He knows it is wrong and actively fights against these urges. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

Neutral. Same deal. The cobbler's motivation for not murdering his customers doesn't matter, because he doesn't do it.
Scenario 3) A goblin is trapped on a desserted island. Consider that goblins are typically evil, but this goblin has been trapped on this island alone. He didn't really have the chance to do anything "evil" since he is all by himself. A Paladin rows by and sees him fishing off the shore. The Paladin sails within range and uses Detect Evil on the goblin. What would he show up as?

Neutral. The goblin may have the intent, but has never actually done anything Evil, so he therefore is not Evil.
A poor person who is very selfless wants to help others out, but being poor, it makes it kind of hard for them to do so, because they do have their own well being to think of. They would like to give money to charity, but since they are poor, they can not (their intentions are good, but they can not act upon them).

Neutral. Again, the presence of intent but lack of opportunity = no Good.
A very rich person on the other hand gives to charity, but not because they are feeling charitable. They do it for a tax write-off, and only give the maximum amount of money to the charity as they would get back in taxes (so their intentions aren't good, but their actions would seem otherwise).

Neutral. This person is essentially just shifting money around or making a bit more money (I'm not sure how charity tax write-offs work), and he knows it. No Good acts, no Evil acts, so it is therefore Neutral.

TS
Let's assume the Paladin's code is to strike down evil whenever he encounters it. He sails by and the goblin and that goblin pings "Evil". Is the Paladin within his right to attack and kill the goblin (who is just there, minding his own business, fishing)? The Paladin can assume that, while the goblin is evil, he must have done evil at some point in his past, he hasn't done anything evil while stranded on the island alone.

In non-threatening circumstances, I tend to frown on Good characters who attack creatures who ping as Evil on sight. The goblin could be non-Evil but be under a curse (a spell or cursed Evil item), the goblin could be in the process of mending his Evil ways and simply not yet had the opportunity yet to atone for his past Evil deeds. It's a fantasy world, so there could be any number of reasons for a non-Evil goblin to ping as Evil. So if a Good PC were to attack a non-threatening "Evil" creature on sight, I'd count that as a mark against their Good alignment. I wouldn't change their alignment right then and there for that transgression alone, but I'd make sure the player knew my PoV on the matter.

Threatening circumstances are different though. If the same goblin is sitting around a cookpot with other armed goblins, stirring what looks suspiciously like human-stew, a Good character would be justified in ambushing said goblins after they ping as Evil.

TS
God I love these threads. Perfect for Fridays at work.

At the beginning of every campaign, my group has a short discussion on alignment, just to touch base. Our own perceptions and definitions change over time. (Ever heard, "If by 20 you're not a Democrat, you have no heart. If by 50 you're not a Republican, you have no brain." ?)

The current DM, in fact, has done away with the alignment system altogether, and insists we play our CAREERS. My assassin may want to kill the orphans' cruel headmistress. Does that make him good? Or evil? Or neutral? Hard to say, right? Depends on his motive. Payment? Just because? To free the orphans? (I smell a t shirt here.) For this current DM, it doesn't matter, as long as the headmistress is killed. It would be incorrect for my assassin to subdue her, for instance.

Which is an interesting system to me... because maybe my assassin needs to subdue someone. In which case I would have to spend five minutes justifying myself. But she's the DM, and I'll play by her rules. While I'm the DM, she'll play by mine.

So here's a question to everyone:

Jack Bauer, from '24.' What's his 3.5e allignment?
He does terrible, terrible things... but all for his country. He's certainly not neutral, as he always has a VERY direct loyalty to America. Does that make him Chaotic American?

We go round and round, and I'd like to say I love EVERYONE'S opinions.
So here's a question to everyone:

Jack Bauer, from '24.' What's his 3.5e allignment?
He does terrible, terrible things... but all for his country. He's certainly not neutral, as he always has a VERY direct loyalty to America. Does that make him Chaotic American?

We go round and round, and I'd like to say I love EVERYONE'S opinions.

I could have my editions all mixed up as the alignments seems to get tweaked with each new one. But, I would say Jack is LN. The protection and defense of the law comes first, good and evil are irrelevant.
I could have my editions all mixed up as the alignments seems to get tweaked with each new one. But, I would say Jack is LN. The protection and defense of the law comes first, good and evil are irrelevant.

Ah, but he routinely breaks the law -- everything from running red lights to torture to assault with a deadly weapon.
Ah, but he routinely breaks the law -- everything from running red lights to torture to assault with a deadly weapon.

Didn't you know? Anti-heroes are in vogue these days.

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Attacking the darkness since 1987, turning creatures sideways since 1994.

Didn't you know? Anti-heroes are in vogue these days.

I LOVE playing the anti-hero. Lately all my characters have been assasins so evil they make Son of Sam look like a girl scout. Yet all their backstories involve some form of "...he has gone down this road so that he can find and kill the man responsible for torturing his childhood friends during the Battle of BlahBlah."
So that when the DM pulls out the archenemy (who is the same one from all our backstories, usually, hahaha), my character confesses his dark past to the party, just to see them shocked at my character actually having compassion in the very end.

And it does surprise them every time. I'm getting good at this.
I LOVE playing the anti-hero.

I despise the anti-hero. Largely because he isn't a hero. He's just a guy with an agenda. Big whoop. That and anti-heroes are notoriously bad at working in groups.

Scope my YouTube channel!

Here's a shout out for Scholars' Books & Games in Bridgewater, MA, and for Paladin's Place in Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany where I was stationed for two years. Support your FLGS!

Attacking the darkness since 1987, turning creatures sideways since 1994.

Then, as I've said twice now, you should overrule the usual requirement that his actions dictate his change in alignment, but only because the scenario assumes rare circumstances where the character is in isolation and for game purposes can't demonstrate the change.

fair enough.

Because alignment is a roleplaying tool it's useless and meaningless for just THINKING about changes in the characters behavior to affect it.

an epiphany is way different then just thinking about being good affecting your alignment.

Impossible to have a LG villain? Well, yeah, by definition that's pretty much true - unless your "heroes" are evil or the character becomes the villain by CHANGING from LG.

but lawful good villains make such great stories! ever read order of the stick?

For game purposes alignment isn't meant to be morally relative; it isn't useful for it to be morally relative. It's meant to be black-and-white so that it can usefully guide a player in deciding on actions for his character that are reasonable and consistent. When the player has his character act inconsistently with his established behavior, its alignment changes.

that's not what I'm saying. alignment by it's very nature is meant to be black and white. what I'm saying is that I think knowing what the right action is takes a lot of fun out of roleplaying.

And of course this was the view of alignment in earlier editions and works as a beneficial feature, not a drawback. The Paladin in particular then gets to act as the class was originally meant to - as judge, jury, and executioner and can use his inherent ability to detect evil to reliably identify creatures who he is not just ALLOWED to kill but INTENDED to kill. By contrast, more recent perspectives of alignment as morally relative would have paladins cast in the role of villain for killing evil creatures simply because they are evil - paladins who are OVERRULED by what is just and right, not paladins who exist to establish and enforce what is just and right.

again, I'm not saying black-and-white morality is a flawed concept, I'm saying I feel making it easy to tell which is which takes away from a lot of great roleplaying oppurtunities.

Then, respectfully, I question whether you have much to really contribute to the discussion as it relates to D&D

I won't pretend to be the most qualified, but I have picked up a few things over the years, and since this discussion is as much, if not more, philsophical than mechanical in nature, I think I know enough to offer some level of contribution.

There is no doubt that alignment never has been used well within the game, given that it didn't have a clear purpose to be in the game when added in the first place except to somehow incorporate the concepts used by Moorcock and Anderson in their books. But time has seen it become established as a useful mechanic - if nonetheless frequently misunderstood and abused mechanic - for guiding roleplaying and even establishing some feel/tone for a given game.

I don't know... I've found some interesting uses for it in my system.

It's a classic trope for bad guys to want the good guys to mistake their true intentions so as to be left unhindered to perpetrate their dirty deeds or even get unwitting assistance. Yes, it's terribly easy to bring that to a screeching halt if its so simple for PC's to reliably identify a potential opponent and his lies and true intentions. That was never intended as a drawback - it was intended as a feature. Spells like Detect Evil and Know Alignment came into the game to be a means of allowing just that - easy and reliable identification of the bad guys, their lies and intentions. They were wanted/needed BECAUSE of the possibility of a DM who often tries and convinces players that the bad guys are actually good to test their resolve and judgement. In particular in earlier editions when departure from alignment would have severe consequences - like loss of levels - such abilities were crucial to fight back against what would then be DM rules abuse.

that I can understand, but I assume that any DM who would throw in a moral dilema to annoy the players as opposed to trying to provide them with a better roleplaying experience will do other things to annoy his players and probably should be DMing in the first place.

As the idea of what alignment could actually be used for was refined those punishment tools were taken away from DM's, but the spells and other rules hooks for alignment remained in place, largely unchanged and unexamined in the light of a changed approach to alignment. Can't deny that that's an issue but it's hardly an insurmountable one. It certainly isn't sufficient grounds to dismiss Alignment out of hand as being entirely useless. If anything, because alignment remains a part of D&D - even if it's for reasons of mere tradition - it's better to reexamine alignment and fix it rather than just whinge that it's there at all and repeat the ways in which we already know it doesn't work.

I'm not trying to dismiss alignment. I'm saying it should be used more realisticly. and before anyone says "but this is fantasy" the concept of good and evil is multiversal, even if the finer details cannot be agreed to.

Absent official game rules on the matter it behooves each individual DM to reexamine alignment and decide for himself what purpose alignment really should serve in his game, HOW it will go about serving that purpose, and then to present the results to players BEFORE it comes up in the game and becomes a problem.

my players know how I handle alignment and I haven't gotten any complaints from them. I have gotten a few good stories.
Scenario 1) An old shoe cobbler has thoughts of killing his customers, but has never acted on those thoughts. The only reason he does not go through with the act is for fear of getting caught and what the law would do to him. If a Paladin were to walk into his store and use Detect Evil, what would he show up as, and why?

What needs to be considered is that there is a mechanical purpose for allignments and Detect Evil spells, and although the questions of if something is morally good or evil comes into question, the Alignments and Detection spells should only concern themselves with the mechanical aspect.

Not everything that is non-Good should be cartegorized as Evil, or else there would be no Unaligned or Neutral. And while Neutral or Unaligned are mostly good, they should cover alot of the questionable moral grays as well.

For example, the old Shoe Cobbler is a Dwarf living in a human city, where he is treated with prejudice as a second class citizen by the humans. He hates these humans who are oppressing his people. He resents his human customers and has thoughts of killing them, but fears the law.

I use that example to illustrate that the alignments should be assigned for mechanical reasons. Motive, Intent and Action are some guidelines. In the above example, his motive is resenting prejudice, his intent is not enough to take actual action however.

The Cobler who worships his evil deity, Clogus and wants to kill his customers as a sacrifice to gain favours and please Clogus. He fears the law, so until he thinks of a foolproof way to not get caught...

This guy his evil. His motive is Evil, his intent is to kill his customers and only fear of the law has prevented him from doing so. He differs in intent from the Dwarf in that he scemes to kill his customers, whereas the Dwarf is only tempted to kill his customers.

The difference between "Wanting to" or "Being tempted" and "Scemes to" or "inttend to" is rather large in my opinion, and if you mark desire and temptation as Evil in the same category then you make it nearly impossible for any evil being to reform.

For example: A Half Orc Barbarian has learnt from his time adventuring that his evil ways are wrong. He desires to change and devote himself to being good. So he quites his violent life of adventuring and mercenary work and takes up Cobbling as a peaceful occupation. As a half Orc and a former barbarian, he has a certain bloodlust and anger issues and a natural inclination towards violences as a racial issue. He is always thinking of killing his customers and it is ussually only his fear of the strict laws on the land that keep his temper in check. Tagging him as evil makes it impossible for him to reform.

I would give the Evil Alignment if:

-They have commited Evil.
-Have no Remorse for their evil ways.
-Have intent to commit evil, that is they actively sceme.

Just being tempted to commit evil, as in wanting to kill your customers, is not enough to warrent being evil. It is however grounds for making a character loose their Good allignment and become Neutral or Unaligned. With thoughts of killing people, he certainly is heading in the wrong direction and depending on how much he wants to kill his customers could be borderline. But until he actively scemes to actually murder them, or kills someone, then he is not Yet Evil.

This is talked about in the 3.5 Dm's Guide about alignment shift. That is someone who starts acting against their alignment. The Cobbler who harbours thoughts about killing his customers is probably Neutral/Unaligned, but is shifting towards the Evil Alignment. He isn't Evil yet, but could eventually reach the turning point and cross that line. If and When he reaches that turning point the cobbler will likely have finally killed someone (clubs the next customer over the head with some clogs and beats him to death)or else be about to kill someone (poisons all his shoes with Mercury)
For example: A Half Orc Barbarian has learnt from his time adventuring that his evil ways are wrong...

I actually have a player who's running with a similar concept: a reformed Tiefling who's become a Good Cleric. I've been trying to develop the idea that he's more Good than the average Good character - since he has to work harder for it. And if he happens to fall off the wagon from time to time... well, at least his heart's in the right place.

I would give the Evil Alignment if:

-They have commited Evil.
-Have no Remorse for their evil ways.
-Have intent to commit evil, that is they actively sceme.

This. I like to encourage the idea that Neutrality is the norm - both Good and Evil are extremes. Most people have a degree of compassion for others, but only a few truly dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. Most people are driven cheifly by self-interest, but only a few pursue their goals with no concern whatsoever for how their actions affect other people.
"The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else." -Umberto Eco, from Travels in Hyperreality "The first adventurer was a nuisance. I am sure he acted against his mother's, his wife's, and the council of old men's strict orders when he did it; but it was he that found where the mammoths die and where after a thousand years of use there was still enough ivory to equip the entire tribe with weapons. Such is the ultimate outline of the adventurer; society's benefactor as well as pest." -William Bolitho, from Twelve Against the Gods