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Consequences of playing "EVIL" races

Zhaleskra

Adventurer
Well, the Face Hugger was acting as an organic artificial lung, which the Xenomorph had put on our captain after he'd been exposed to vacuum. Fought the clones of one of the characters (it was my "inconvenient secret" on an index card that made him a clone), and we befriended the Xenomorph who it turned out had crashed into our ship because it was joyriding in its parents' "car".
 

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univoxs

That's my dog, Walter
Supporter
Another thread got me thinking about traditional evil races and the consequences of playing them. In the other thread a gold dragon was attacked by a drow and then killed. Is/ should there be problems with playing evil races in your game? In my games monsters are monsters and villagers will hire PCs to kill them if they come into town. On the other hand how do you accord your friend who wants to play a drow or bugbear and walk into town. I'm sure this has been done before, but interested in thoughts not about playing lawful good, but about how to play and give the players what they want, but at the same time have the DM put parameters on the world.

I have seen where you can play in the outskirts of society where the roadside inn caters to anyone with coin or a nation that is more lawless and has some elements like slavery so other races are tolerated. I see in FR where Waterdeep is supposed to be very cosmopolitan and everything is accepted.

I'm not sure if this is Hasbro selling books and making FR allow these races since players want to play them or if I'm being a gronard and applying some sort of bias by not allowing them.
I don't think anyones character in WFRP is "good" really nothing in that seeing turns out all that well for anyone. Certainly a low of WoD games have struggling with good an evil from the jump and that is their purpose. The big campaign in Travaller is called Pirates of Drinax. Everyone is a shade of bad there.

It is the alignment system and races having set alignments that can't get a little funky. I had a little fun with this once where I had an advenuter in which the party came upon a Tengu Witch who kidnapped children from evil races, killed them and the reincarnated them as good races. The players really struggled with the right and wrong of it all.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I had a little fun with this once where I had an advenuter in which the party came upon a Tengu Witch who kidnapped children from evil races, killed them and the reincarnated them as good races. The players really struggled with the right and wrong of it all.
Yeah, that's an interesting scenario. I'm struggling to think of any real world morality system that could give you guidance in that one. There just aren't any good real world parallels, and to the extent that there are analogies I really don't feel comfortable making them.

My gut feeling is that the problem here is that it doesn't matter what the motive actually is, the Witch is going to eventually enjoy the killing part and things will start running down hill from there. At the very least, what the witch is doing is an act of Hubris - it's a decision that is way above her station. Between violence and hubris, it's hard to imagine the fruits of this labor are going to be good. The other way that I can see this going highly wrong is that it's probably the "soul" that makes the alignment, so it could be that all she's actually doing is making evil members of the "good race". On the other hand, perhaps since it's children she's doing it with, they haven't really fixed their alignment yet, and not yet being depraved and being reincarnated as members of the new race they are likely to turn out good (assuming that they are raised with care). That probably depends on the "evil race". Something that is only 'sometimes' or 'usually' evil might could get converted to this process, where the 'always' races probably couldn't. And it's possible in a two axis morality system that this is Chaotic, and "right" and "wrong" aren't the key elements of it. All of which is to say that the whole thing gives me a little bit of the "willies" just with how alien the precepts are, and how weird things get if you pursue some aspects of the setting to their logical conclusions.
 
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shawnhcorey

Explorer
I had a little fun with this once where I had an advenuter in which the party came upon a Tengu Witch who kidnapped children from evil races, killed them and the reincarnated them as good races. The players really struggled with the right and wrong of it all.
That's why I don't play games with alignments. Labelling someone for any reason is wrong. In the real world, a good and evil person is defined by their actions, not racism.
 

Celebrim

Legend
That's why I don't play games with alignments. Labelling someone for any reason is wrong. In the real world, a good and evil person is defined by their actions, not racism.
How does that in any fashion address the issue?

In the real world, the only people we know are humans. And racial divisions within humanity represent relatively small differences between people with a shared heritage, shared rights, shared dignities, and shared capacity for genius. So yes, in the real world, as things currently are, no one is defined by their race much less someone else's perception of race.

And yes, I think we can agree that in the real world and in D&D good and evil are defined by actions.

But here we have the return of the "labeling" issue. And once again, a red dragon is not labelled evil. A red dragon is evil. The red dragon's nature invariably leads to certain actions. A red dragon isn't merely labeled a different race than other dragons or other persons by some arbitrary classification. A red dragon is a whole different species.

I get what sort of stand you are taking here with regard to humanity, your fellow man, humankind, but this stand while laudable in that respect doesn't address the complexities of speculative fiction. Indeed, it doesn't even address the complexities available in hard science fiction, which is a genre of speculative fiction that deals with the plausible based on an extrapolation about what is currently known. And based on what is currently known, it's entirely possible to create a species either as AI or through biological engineering with characteristics, innate modes of behavior, and instincts which are congruent with the idea of "an evil species".

I feel like that in your eagerness to castigate a real world evil mode of thinking, that you are essentially condemning all speculation. That is to say, since racism is a real evil of this world, you are claiming that it is wrong to think about the problem of interactions between species when those species are not fundamentally similar in the way that human ethnic groups are fundamentally similar.

And speaking as a guy with some interest in AI, that strikes me as really naive and even dangerous. And speaking as a guy who runs RPGs, plays RPGs, and reads fantasy, that strikes me as an attempt to blanket condemn whole genres of fiction in a way I haven't seen, since interacting with religious fundamentalists that feel that any story with magic in it is evil.

So let me ask for a plain answer. Are you saying you don't feel comfortable playing in a game with alignments, or are you saying that anyone is wrong to do so?
 
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Celebrim

Legend
I don't play games with alignment because:
  • races are labelled good and evil arbitrarily.
  • evil races won't survive because they'll kill their offspring.
  • the GM decides what is good and evil, not the players.
  • it requires unscientific thinking.
That's not really a plain answer to the question I asked.

As to your points, it's not at all clear to me that races are labelled good and evil arbitrarily. I think races are labelled good and evil according to their expected behavior. If a member of that race, such as an orc, didn't engage in that behavior, then they wouldn't be labeled "evil".

As for your second point, it is not at all clear that all evil races would kill their offspring or that they all would to the point of being nonviable. While being evil always contains an element of destructiveness, being evil does not necessarily mean being totally nihilistic - we wouldn't assert that all evil beings would immediately commit suicide (and doing so would be a violation of CE tenets). And in the case of a race biologically capable of overproducing offspring, it's certainly not clear that culling offspring leads to poor biological fitness. For example, suppose female dragons lay 50 eggs every year. The dragon may expect, from a biological perspective, most of the offspring to die as only a few are needed to reproduce the species in the long term. So a female dragon mother may well cull those offspring that she doesn't feel are fit to survive, and leave the rest to struggle. This is not inconsistent with the idea of dragons still being a plague on the world.

As for your third point, why is it wrong for the GM to decide for the purposes of the setting what is good and evil? Is your point actually congruent to saying that you won't play in a game where you don't get to set the definitions of good and evil?

As for your fourth point, doesn't playing in any magical setting promote "unscientific thinking"? Are you asserting that it is wrong for anyone to consider an unscientific setting?

So not only did you evade my question, but the explanation for why you personally don't play games with alignment seems weak and not based on a rational consideration of the evidence.
 

shawnhcorey

Explorer
Let's look at lions. Young lionesses when they become sexually mature, encourage outsid male lions to take over the pride. When they do, the males lions kill the young so that the lionesses will become fertile. So, the young lionesses are indirectly responsible for the death of their youngest siblings. Is that good or evil?

Lions will kill other predators in their area, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, foxes. Is that good or evil?

In areas with hyenas, lions will steal the hyenas' kill. Is that good or evil?

All of the above increases the lions chances of survival. So how can you call them anything but good?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Ok, so attacking this from a different angle. Certain aspects of the Tengu Witch scenario that prompted this latest conversation are unique to the fantasy scenario. But the underlying questions of about what is right and wrong are not limited to fantasy scenarios.

In the game Mass Effect, one of the sentient species is the Krogan. The Krogan are a violent predatory species that have in their natural evolved state the ability to overproduce offspring. Krogans naturally reproduce many more children than an ecology can support. In their natural state the Krogan have to make war and kill a very high percentage of their own species, or else the ecology would collapse from an overabundance of top order predators. So long as the Krogan were confined to a single world, this meant that their species were just in perpetual warfare with themselves. But when the Krogan gained the ability to travel off world, the self-limiting pressure that the species placed on themselves was ended. The Krogan could expand through the galaxy, reproducing rapidly, filling every ecosystem, and exterminating all other sentient species that were in their way.

In a less thoughtful story, the Krogan would be the villains. But at the time the story is set, the Krogan have been defeated and largely confined to their home world. To prevent the biological inevitability of the war reoccurring, a group of scientists created a tailored virus which would render about 98% of Krograns in each generation sterile. Only by rendering 98% of Krogans sterile would the Krogans be so biologically limited that they could no longer sustain mass casualties in war. The result of this sterility is that Krogans cannot sustain war against another sentient species. But since the Krogans still retain their biological instinct to fight and kill each other, the species is in a state of decline and their culture is in a state of essentially universal depression. Krogans now lack the ability to act according to their instinctive imperatives, because when they do, their species declines. Peaceableness has been forced on them. As result they are having to redefine themselves, and it's a painful process fighting against their own instincts to destroy. Many want to find a cure to the sterility so they can return to their "glory days", but their glory days are actually defined by perpetual violence and genocide.

The architect of the viral sterility is a very thoughtful scientist that is a major NPC in the story. And he spends most of the story wrestling with the morality of his own choices. And you the player can affirm or deny his conclusions, influencing the story.

Is this whole thing wrong to think about for the same reasons you assert that it is wrong to have alignment? The Silurian scientist is essentially adopting the same solution in a different setting as the Tengu Witch.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Let's look at lions. Young lionesses when they become sexually mature, encourage outsid male lions to take over the pride. When they do, the males lions kill the young so that the lionesses will become fertile. So, the young lionesses are indirectly responsible for the death of their youngest siblings. Is that good or evil?

Lions will kill other predators in their area, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, foxes. Is that good or evil?

In areas with hyenas, lions will steal the hyenas' kill. Is that good or evil?

All of the above increases the lions chances of survival. So how can you call them anything but good?
Again, you seem to have struck out on a tangent and not answered or responded to anything I've actually said. Not only are you continuing to evade the question I asked, but you are not defending any of the four points you raised in an earlier post.

Lions and hyenas have very little to do with the question. Morality is generally seen as something only a fully sentient species can possess. For example, the small pox virus is not generally regarded as possessing the quality of "evil", even though it creates evils. Nor does anyone seem to be morally troubled by the fact that we exterminated it. Lions are animals, and I think we generally agree that animals are in some sense categorically different than persons. I'm not suggesting lions have no sentience, no intelligence, and no rights - but the degree of sentience and intelligence is so different than that of persons that they cannot be classified in the same fashion.

So again, to raise the issue of lions or hyenas seems to be evading the question. Neither lions nor hyenas are seen as moral actors.

However, I think that if you were to imagine a sentient species with the biology and culture of lions, then that species would be pretty darn appalling in all sorts of ways. As I've said before, when defining how Drow behave in my game, I looked to lions for inspiration, because a sentient species that behaved like lions was about the most evil and depraved thing that I could imagine. The degree to which lion society is appalling is not something you have more than barely touched on.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So not only did you evade my question
With respect, your question used loaded language ascribing an emotional state. It looks to me like he said he doesn't play games with alignment. I don't see him claiming discomfort.

It isnt' really evasive when the question isnt' appropriate.

but the explanation for why you personally don't play games with alignment seems weak and not based on a rational consideration of the evidence.
As if two people considering things rationally always have to come to the same conclusion?

Maybe you shouldn't be positioning yourself as the arbiter of rationality....
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Lions will kill other predators in their area, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, foxes. Is that good or evil?
The simple answer here is that (real world) lions are not capable of moral judgement. The lion is not capable of stopping and thinking, "Wait a minute, can I do this in a way that causes less pain and suffering in the world?" Asking if their behavior is good or evil is not terribly different from asking if a hurricane is good or evil.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@Umbran With all due respect, the questions you are addressing to me are pretty much exactly the questions I am addressing to the other poster.

The discomfort you apparently feel with the assertions I'm making parallels rather strongly the discomfort I'm feeling with @shawnhcorey assertions. He said for example that he doesn't play games with alignment because "Labeling someone for any reason is wrong." That's not a claim of subjective experience, but a normative claim. It would appear to apply to games other than the ones he participates him. Likewise, you seem to be worried that I'm positioning myself as "the arbiter of rationality". Leaving aside that everyone is an arbiter of rationality so if was positioning myself to do that it wouldn't be unusual, I'm not actually the person who introduced the issue into this discussion. The other poster defended his assertion by suggesting the contrary required "unscientific thinking".

Just as you seem to want clarification of my position, I would like clarification from the original poster.

As for your question, it should be well known to you that I don't insist that two rational persons will always come to the same conclusion. That is not actually the point of contention. The question is, given a body of evidence, is every conclusion rational. I left open right from the start that there would be rational reasons to decide that you didn't want to play a game with alignment. I don't have a particular problem with assertions like, "Alignment isn't right for me. In games I've played, it hasn't worked out, and these are the reasons why."

But again, that isn't what the poster asserted. For each of the for bullet points he made, I suggested that there was a logical problem with the assertion. Neither you nor him have offered to disagree with my points.
 
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shawnhcorey

Explorer
In the game Mass Effect, one of the sentient species is the Krogan. The Krogan are a violent predatory species that have in their natural evolved state the ability to overproduce offspring. Krogans naturally reproduce many more children than an ecology can support. In their natural state the Krogan have to make war and kill a very high percentage of their own species, or else the ecology would collapse from an overabundance of top order predators.
Which is artificial. Most predators die from starvation.

Lions and hyenas have very little to do with the question. Morality is generally seen as something only a fully sentient species can possess.
Another arbitrary labelling. What is morality?

Here's a moral problem for you: In WW2, the allies intercepted a encoded message from the Nazis about their plans to bomb a small town in England. If Churchill evacuated the town, the Nazis would realize their codes have been broken and change them; the allies could no longer read the messages. This could result in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. On the other hand, if they did not evacuate, hundreds of townsfolk would die. But then again, the Nazis could change their codes at any time, so not evacuating the town does not guarantee future decoding of their messages. What is the moral choice?
 

Celebrim

Legend
Another arbitrary labeling.
Are you suggesting that it the distinction between a virus, broccoli, a lion, and a person is arbitrary?

What is morality?
The question, "What is Truth?" is not nearly as novel or as penetrating as some think. In any event, since you ask me the question, "What is morality?", I take that to mean that you don't think morality actually exists, or that morality is wholly arbitrary? Is that a correct inference from your question?

Here's a moral problem for you: In WW2, the allies intercepted a encoded message from the Nazis about their plans to bomb a small town in England. If Churchill evacuated the town, the Nazis would realize their codes have been broken and change them; the allies could no longer read the messages. This could result in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. On the other hand, if they did not evacuate, hundreds of townsfolk would die. But then again, the Nazis could change their codes at any time, so not evacuating the town does not guarantee future decoding of their messages. What is the moral choice?
While that is a very interesting discussion, this is now what the fourth time you've attempted to deflect from the conversation at hand. Why must I persist in writing essays to new questions you are raising, when you've showed absolutely no inclination to cordially answer any of my questions?
 

shawnhcorey

Explorer
Why must I persist in writing essays to new questions you are raising, when you've showed absolutely no inclination to cordially answer any of my questions?
That's because your questions have an answer. What is good or evil, right or wrong is subjective; it changes from person to person.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The discomfort you apparently feel with the assertions I'm making parallels rather strongly the discomfort I'm feeling with @shawnhcorey assertions.
Okay. Same problem. You are ascribing a feeling or emotion to me, and it isn't accurate. I am not, by any common use of the term, "uncomfortable".
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Okay. Same problem. You are ascribing a feeling or emotion to me, and it isn't accurate. I am not, by any common use of the term, "uncomfortable".
Ok, if that is the sticking point, would you - completely without regard to your emotional state - say that you find my logic in some way faulty, or that the implications of my logic are unfortunate?

Or in short, what prompted you to disagree if you felt no disagreement?

You claimed that this statement was "inappropriate": "Are you saying you don't feel comfortable playing in a game with alignments, or are you saying that anyone is wrong to do so?"

I don't think it violated any board rules, if that is what you mean by "inappropriate". I think that the intention of the statement was clear, and that it wasn't in fact "loaded language describing an emotional state".

However, I would be perfectly happy with however you want to frame the question in a way that asks the same thing, without what you describe as "loaded language describing an emotional state". It's not my intention in asking about whether someone is comfortable with an idea to ascribe to them any particular emotional state, and certainly not some state of passion and high stress. What language do you use to describe a state when you are disinclined to agree with something? Or perhaps I should state, what language do you want me to use to ask the question?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't play games with alignment because:
  • races are labelled good and evil arbitrarily.
  • evil races won't survive because they'll kill their offspring.
  • the GM decides what is good and evil, not the players.
  • it requires unscientific thinking.
Responding to these points in order:

A - While the labelling might seem arbitrary on the surface, one would hope some thinking went into it from the DM side as regards how a given race or species fits in to the setting and-or is viewed by others. Further, many GMs use these labels as guidelines rather than absolutes, to allow for some variance.

B - A massive and unsupported leap of assumption. Any species that hopes to remain viable is going to reproduce in numbers enough to keep itself going (which also tosses out your lions example a few posts down); also by no means do all 'evil' species or races kill their offspring.

C - Absolutely. Setting construction is the GM's purview, and determining general alignments of races and species is a part of that process.

D - Nothing new here; much of what goes on in a typical RPG throws scientific thinking out the window. Just look at any of the countless debates about hit points, falling damage, and recovery via resting.
 

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