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Good, Evil, Nature, and Druids

S'mon

Hero
IMC - Nature is not Good or Evil in D&D Alignment terms, but can be both or neither. Druids and Druid organisations can be Neutral Good or Neutral Evil, but tend towards True Neutrality. You basically never get LG or LE Druids; CG & CE are rare but possible. The Lord Weird Slough Feg in the Slaine comic strip would likely be CE, and the Drune Lords as an organisation NE. But I think Feg was corrupted by alliance with the alien Cythrawls, as well as his own desire for immortality, and was no longer truly doing the Will of the Earth Goddess Danu. That didn't stop him drawing on the Earth Power though.
 
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One can consider Gygax's favorite novels, and make reasonable guesses at how and why he wrote up various classes, spells, monsters, etc. in D&D. In the case of the Druid, I would bet long odds that Gygax was trying to write rules for the druids depicted in L. Sprague de Camp's stories about Harold Shea.

Which is to say, Gygax wrote a class and a spell list based on a few paragraphs about people whose main relevance to the plot is their interest in human sacrifice. IIRC the Harold Shea stories don't have *any* examples of druids casting spells, nor assuming animal form.
There is one major problem with that; Gygax didn't write the class: Dennis Sustare did.

I've seen some attempts to reconstruct what Sustare's sources were, but the truth is that Sustare himself didn't remember exactly what they were and its likely from variety of vague ideas coming from early 20th century fantasy literature, and the intention to make them masters of plants and animals, that he came up with the druid mostly whole cloth. Of the sources that Sustare has admitted to having read, Henry Kuttner's works seem to me the most likely source for the druid. It's possible Jon Peterson has made a careful reconstruction, but right at the moment I don't remember what his thoughts were on the druid. Only a handful of the ideas in the class could have possibly come from the historical record, including the identification with oak leaves and mistletoe, and the idea that high ranking druids had to enter into a contest with each other to be promoted. However, considering the sources of these ideas are unreliable, they probably bear barely more relation to actual druidic practice - whatever it was - than anything else.
 
does this match your understanding of True Neutral?

<snip>

Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is pre-eminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms.

<snip>

They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.
The religious teachings could be TN, or not - from what's said we can't tell.

But at least we have a canonical grounding for the need to fight a combat to gain an upper-level title!

Sustare?

No anagram? Not so much as backwards?
Would Chariot of Eratsus have the same ring to it?
 

pming

Explorer
Hiya!

I play mostly 1e/HM or 5e...both have rather different interpretations of "Druid" and "Neutral". I generally re-jigger 5e druids (and all alignments) to be in accordance with 1e writing/rules/descriptions.

Neutral, as I see it, is all about survival and just living your life. Sometimes you need to risk your life for others so that you have a better chance of survival later on...sometimes you need to just sit back and let the gods sort everything out...and sometimes you need to do something in between. This is why I see all animals as "neutral"; they are unconcerned with such concepts as Good or Evil. Some animals may have a cruel streak, some may have more of a caring one. But when it comes down to survival they all do what they must.

Druids I run pretty much as 1e. I like it and I find it the most interesting. I play primarily in Greyhawk or one of my homebrew worlds (which have very much "Greyhawk'esque" Druid set ups). The only thing I modified was the number of higher level druids 'in the world' to be more of 'in a large area'. I distinguish large forests, mountain ranges, hills, swamps, etc as a 'world'. This is for all Druids up to 14th level. There is one level 15 druid per "continent". After that we get into the Hierophants, and that's a whole other kettle of fish.

So, in short, there are no "evil" druids or "good" druids although a druids action or lack thereof may be seen as or actually BE Evil or Good...but that's ok as long as it's serving the tenets of Neutrality and Nature. A druid that continues to do specifically Good or Evil things will get in trouble and start to loose his/her Druidic spells and powers. They will then be shown the error of their ways and the path (atonement) they need to take to get back in tune with the multiverse/nature.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
all alignments) to be in accordance with 1e writing/rules/descriptions.

Neutral, as I see it, is all about survival and just living your life. Sometimes you need to risk your life for others so that you have a better chance of survival later on...sometimes you need to just sit back and let the gods sort everything out...and sometimes you need to do something in between. This is why I see all animals as "neutral"; they are unconcerned with such concepts as Good or Evil. Some animals may have a cruel streak, some may have more of a caring one. But when it comes down to survival they all do what they must.
Nod, that's all part of 1e's concept of TN, but so's the whole 'maintain the balance' thing.
 

uzirath

Explorer
Neutral, as I see it, is all about survival and just living your life. . . . This is why I see all animals as "neutral"; they are unconcerned with such concepts as Good or Evil. Some animals may have a cruel streak, some may have more of a caring one. But when it comes down to survival they all do what they must.
This gets me thinking. The sentences I bolded above could apply pretty well to most humans, right? But, maybe most humans are neutral? Could be.

There is also much debate among biologists about altruistic behaviors in various animal species. I read an article recently about humpback whales defending seals from a pod of orcas. This seemed to offer none of the usual benefits to the humpbacks (i.e., they can't expect reciprocal favors from the seals, nor are they helping their kinship group), so the researchers hypothesized that altruistic behaviors (defined as putting yourself at risk or expending resources for no gain) may be more deeply ingrained in many animal species. Would altruistic animals be "good" or do they require sapience to cross that line on the alignment graph?

And, of course, in a game world, one might define all animals (and plants, even) as sapient. In that scheme, would alignment apply primarily to how you treat your own species? So, for example, in most campaigns, you wouldn't judge a human as "evil" for slaying animals for food. Likewise, a sapient tiger hunting for food, wouldn't be evil either. But if it hunted other tigers? Or if it hunted humans?

Just musing aloud here.
 

pming

Explorer
Hiya!

First, sorry for not getting back sooner...I no longer frequent these boards nearly as much anymore because of...well..."reasons". I find Dragonsfoot seems to fit me a bit better overall. Anyway...

This gets me thinking. The sentences I bolded above could apply pretty well to most humans, right? But, maybe most humans are neutral? Could be.

There is also much debate among biologists about altruistic behaviors in various animal species. I read an article recently about humpback whales defending seals from a pod of orcas. This seemed to offer none of the usual benefits to the humpbacks (i.e., they can't expect reciprocal favors from the seals, nor are they helping their kinship group), so the researchers hypothesized that altruistic behaviors (defined as putting yourself at risk or expending resources for no gain) may be more deeply ingrained in many animal species. Would altruistic animals be "good" or do they require sapience to cross that line on the alignment graph?
I'd actually put this more in line with psychology more than morality. The whales may really REALLY not like the sound of seals getting slaughtered. So...they try and prevent that due to purely selfish reasons. But we don't know for certain. Our human empathy WANTS to say "because humpback whales are good and loving creatures!"...the same way we see an animal trying to get food from someone and we attribute human emotions/actions to it.

I'd go with humpbacks just being selfish and not wanting to deal with dieing seals for whatever reason (sound would be my first guess). Purely selfish. Doing it for themselves...even if the end result is seals being saved. I do the same thing when I help a lot of people out (like buying the person's food for them who are directly behind me in a McD's drive through, or donating to some charity, etc). I'm doing it mostly because it makes ME feel good knowing that I made someone else feel good unexpectedly. Their happiness is almost a byproduct; I'm doing it to make myself feel good first and foremost. Selfish? Sure. Honest? Definitely.
 
In general I find D&D alignment to be nonsensical and druids are just another manifestation of that. D&D never had a particularly well-constructed theology. It wasn't until 4e that primal spirits were mentioned as the source of druid powers, and they seem to have been largely forgotten as of 5e.

If I had to make sense of things, then I'd use a model based on reconstructed Proto-Indo-European mythology and Moorcock's law/chaos theology. These are the primary inspirations for D&D anyway, so it makes the most sense to go back to the basics.

A number of Indo-European religions posit a series of wars between the gods, such as titans versus primordials, gods versus titans, giants versus gods, jotun versus aesir, aesir versus vanir, tuatha de dannan versus fomorians, tuatha de dannan versus firbolg, and asura versus daeva. Sometimes there are multiple wars in sequence between different generations of gods.

Moorcock's law/chaos mythos mentions that there are beast lords, elemental lords and plant lords, but these were rarely detailed. IIRC, the RPG explained they were nominally aligned with neutrality (which is essentially a form of law but that's a discussion for another time).

It would be easy enough to equate Moorcock's nature lords with the deposed or assimilated nature deities from some strands of Indo-European mythology, like the aesir and the firbolg. The easiest way to slot in "druids" as a distinct concept from "clerics" is to make them the remaining followers of the old gods and nature gods that were left abandoned when the new gods took over. The Scarred Lands campaign setting took this route.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
D&D never had a particularly well-constructed theology. It wasn't until 4e that primal spirits were mentioned as the source of druid powers, and they seem to have been largely forgotten as of 5e.
Yeah, the primal spirits felt a trifle forced or out of left field, maybe the decision to include a Shaman class had something to do with it? Druids as a remnant of 'old religion' always appealed to me, in 4e, Druids gaining power from ancient pacts with Primordials would have been more evocative, IMHO, making them natural underdog rivals to the divine classes, and being consistent with their close ties to elemental powers in prior eds, especially fire.
 
On the subject of Druid power source, since it's never been particularly explicit, it was always sort of up to the DM.

In my game worlds, the power source of Druids is pacts with spirits which are of greater than mortal power, but inferior to Deific power. These spirits either directly aid the Druid or who persuade or command their less spirits to act on their behalf. So a druid might have an agreement with the Spirit of Beech Trees, and this gives them a relationship with lesser plants and ability to control them because these spirits would certainly obey the Spirit of Beech Trees. The same sort of agreement might be maintained with the Prince of Cats, the Lord of All Fire Elementals, or even say a Planatar, Primus of the Modrons, or a Slaad Lord.
 
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Voadam

Adventurer
Yeah, the primal spirits felt a trifle forced or out of left field, maybe the decision to include a Shaman class had something to do with it? Druids as a remnant of 'old religion' always appealed to me, in 4e, Druids gaining power from ancient pacts with Primordials would have been more evocative, IMHO, making them natural underdog rivals to the divine classes, and being consistent with their close ties to elemental powers in prior eds, especially fire.
Scarred Lands did this well in the 3e era with clerics worshiping gods and druids venerating titans with the one PC friendly earth mother titan (being a classic PC druid tradition template) having sided with the gods in the Gods-Titans war while leaving room for wierd NPC druid traditions who follow the bad guy titans of vulcanism or hunting or venom.
 
in 4e, Druids gaining power from ancient pacts with Primordials would have been more evocative, IMHO, making them natural underdog rivals to the divine classes, and being consistent with their close ties to elemental powers in prior eds, especially fire.
But also making them enemies of the living world and its continued existence. Because of the way they framed the Primordials (not as beings of nature and passion but as beings of elemental chaos) I can see why they didn't go down this path.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
But also making them enemies of the living world and its continued existence. Because of the way they framed the Primordials (not as beings of nature and passion but as beings of elemental chaos) I can see why they didn't go down this path.
Seemed like the Dawn War ended a long time ago, like all of time. And while the Gods generally expect you to toe some line they've made up, elemental powers just are. Yes, it would mean gaining power from and appeasing in abstract, ancient ritualized ways, powers of a terrible, inhuman scale - but, no, it would not mean subscribing to there war-at-the-beginning-of-time agenda. OTOH, it probably would mean the followers of the Gods assume they /are/. Old religion, oppressed by the new. Fits the image of the Druid better than the hippie nature worshipper stereotype.

In particular, the whole "protecting nature" thing is just whack - an iron-age society has far more to fear from nature than nature has to fear from it.
 
This gets me thinking. The sentences I bolded above could apply pretty well to most humans, right? But, maybe most humans are neutral? Could be.
D&D has always seemed to lean that way. Although I think officially they were listed as 'Alignment: Any' in 3e, I think they could reasonably be listed as 'Alignment: Often Neutral' in contrast to the 'Often Lawful Good' of dwarves or the 'Often Chaotic Good' of elves.

From a demographic perspective I generally assume 60-80% of human NPCs in a community will be neutral, depending on how philosophical the culture is as a whole. The remainder are divided amongst the other 8 alignments, skewed toward the dominate philosophy of the community.

And, of course, in a game world, one might define all animals (and plants, even) as sapient. In that scheme, would alignment apply primarily to how you treat your own species?
Alignment gets weird when you start talking about a material being (as opposed to a spirit with alignment by definition) with a very different biology than humanity. There are several different ways to look at the problem.

a) Alignment is specific to the species: Each species has some sort of rules built into it by its creator that it ought to follow, typically according to the dictates of his creator for the health of the species and the ecosystem as a whole. So for example, Rudyard Kipling presents sentient animals in the jungle books following a code that they are aware of, and departing from that code indicates immorality. One of the laws of their code is, "Seven times, seven: never hunt man.", which could conceivably justified in several ways. Presumably predators in an ecosystem would know that their role is to hunt the weak and the aged for the health of the prey, and prey animals would understand that they are part of some natural cycle and though they have a right to resist the hunter, neither hunter nor prey would judge the other for following their own code.
b) Alignment transcends species: In this scenario, which isn't necessarily incompatible with the former, there is a sense in which alignment is larger than any particular species. In this perspective, an obligate carnivore or parasitic species might have been created or be inherently evil, and there is some sense in which the species is 'wrong' and the created universe is flawed by the presence of the species. Things are not as they ought to be. As with any universe that isn't in a state of perfection, the big question is what to do about it. One possible explanation is that evil and good are just parts of some cosmic balance, and while you might be tempted to prefer one over the other, this is short sighted. The evil creatures are as necessary as the good ones, provided that things stay in proportion and balance. This perspective returns us close to the status in 'a' alone, save that now a carnivore is _supposed_ to be evil and fulfilling its purpose while evil, has a larger purpose. Another perspective is that the universe requires redemption or transformation, and that could come about by wiping out the evil parts of it, or by some how transforming the rules of the universe so that the evil aspects of it are no longer necessities - the lion could lie down with the lamb. A third perspective is that sense the universe is inherently flawed, the best thing to do is wipe the whole thing out and start over from scratch, or possibly as a fourth perspective wipe everything out and not start over from scratch since nothing good could come of it anyway. Turn the lights out on the universe eternally. And the same sort of perspective could apply to individual species. Some of them might be unredeemable and need to be wiped out (Mind Flayers, for example). Others might be redeemable and are destined for some sort of transformation or transcendence.
 

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