D&D General I can't help it - every pure wizard I ever make has turned or will turn "evil" (even if only in my own mind).


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I’ve played a few wizards:

My first wizard was a purely evil,power hungry megalomaniac. It was also my first character.

My last wizard was socially detached and pragmatic. But he did have a sense of morality. His pragmatism got him into trouble with the party though.

“You took over his body with magic jar!?!? You are turning evil”

But when I asked them what they would have done: “uh, probably fought him”.

So murdering your enemy was less taboo than taking them over in order to restrain them and bring them to Justice.

In the end, my character just backed one of the PCs who happened to be most morally humane and allowed my character to fulfill his own private goals (immortality, of course).

It’s almost impossible to play a ‘charitable’ wizard given the cost of material components of high level spells
 

I don't see why any such code would survive learning how to bend the multiverse to your will.
That's your choice. Perhaps some reading up on real people who have had great power and used it for good might help? Or look to fiction for examples. Honor Harrington comes to mind, but pick one that resonates with you, not with me.
And, they don't all start selfish, in fact I've gone out of my way to give them reasons not to be but... dude, there's a multiverse out there! Also I can make copies of myself without free will to do things for me. And, of course, undead labor. See also: fireballs as war crimes. And how do we think the spirits we summon to die for us feel about it?
Oh I get it. But it's your view that the ability to bend the multiverse must be used for evil, or that there is no "good" use for such power. There are plenty of ways to use such power for good. Such as; feeding the poor, providing sanitation for a town, ridding the X of evil Y.

I can drive 130 mph on the street near me, but I don't. I can go into a convenience store, kill the clerk and rob the place, but I don't. It's a choice you make to play your wizard as turning evil. If you don't want that, then expand your view :) If you do want it, then go for it if it's within your group's acceptable play styles.

EDIT: poor? examples. They are an attempt to show that power does not need to be used, and it does not need to be used for selfish reasons.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
That's your choice. Perhaps some reading up on real people who have had great power and used it for good might help? Or look to fiction for examples. Honor Harrington comes to mind, but pick one that resonates with you, not with me.

Oh I get it. But it's your view that the ability to bend the multiverse must be used for evil, or that there is no "good" use for such power. There are plenty of ways to use such power for good. Such as; feeding the poor, providing sanitation for a town, ridding the X of evil Y.

I can drive 130 mph on the street near me, but I don't. I can go into a convenience store, kill the clerk and rob the place, but I don't. It's a choice you make to play your wizard as turning evil. If you don't want that, then expand your view :) If you do want it, then go for it if it's within your group's acceptable play styles.

EDIT: poor? examples. They are an attempt to show that power does not need to be used, and it does not need to be used for selfish reasons.
It didn't take long for someone to get bent out of shape.

Anyway, none of those examples are really at the same level of inter-planar earthbending power. A small bit of power would only beget a small bit of "evil", or corruption, or selfishness. PCs exhibit that all the time.

Lets say I consider PCs to be constrained, only that Wizards can throw off the yoke of law. Without law, Bellum omnium contra omnes.
 

It didn't take long for someone to get bent out of shape.
Nope, not me.
Anyway, none of those examples are really at the same level of inter-planar earthbending power. A small bit of power would only beget a small bit of "evil", or corruption, or selfishness. PCs exhibit that all the time.

Lets say I consider PCs to be constrained, only that Wizards can throw off the yoke of law. Without law, Bellum omnium contra omnes.
Again, you don't get my point. If you don't want to play a wizard who turns evil because of (any reason you want). Then don't. It's totally in your control, if you chose to.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Nope, not me.

Again, you don't get my point. If you don't want to play a wizard who turns evil because of (any reason you want). Then don't. It's totally in your control, if you chose to.
I have zero problems with it, as I've said several times already in this thread, and of course my characters are entirely in my control.

However, as characters grow more powerful, as I see it the frame of reference for their morality changes too. Just as is the case with regular people in the real world, their moral values change as their conditions do. And wizards grow quite powerful.

Couple that with how power acquisition is more or less at the core of the wizard archetype, a morality that seems at best strange and at worst evil to regular folks seems the most likely outcome. Compare with a character that never sought power, but found what was quite a lot: Dr. Manhattan. A striking shift in his moral compass followed.

Now imagine he started down that road seeking that power.

I don't see how acquiring it doesn't change them, and those changes are unlikely to be seen as mostly positive by those common folk whose moral compass has remained pointing in more or less the same direction, and on the same Euclidean plane.

I think power without corruption is a fantasy, and one that breaks verisimilitude for me.
 


@ph0rk

I think, perhaps, that the problem may lie in the way you view the relationship between the wizard and their power? That is, it seems to me that you start off with the perspective, "A Wizard desires power, and thus pursues Wizardly ways because those are an excellent investment."

Would you describe any of your Wizards as the kind of people who investigate puzzles or enigmas solely because they are unsolved, without any consideration for the power or influence they might gain from solving them? If not, then perhaps that's an anodyne to this seemingly-inevitable march toward selfish lowercase-e evil. Pursuit of knowledge and magic, not because these things grant power, but because it's literally just a surge of sheer joy to have an epiphany or craft a new spell.

Part of why I say this is, you've noted that other spellcasters don't experience this process, making particular note of Sorcerers. A Sorcerer never sought out their powers in the first place (or, at least, the "expected" way of becoming one is a family-tree surprise), these powers just happened to them. As a result, while they might choose to explore those powers, their behavior is not in principle motivated by those powers. Compound this with the examples you already gave (they're social butterflies, thus inclining you to think socially; they're spell-limited, turning you away from pursuit of elaborate efforts and spellbook-filling), particularly given your statement that Bards could go in a similar direction due to their ability to pick up spells from other lists, and I think there's a pretty good case to be made for this. You see Wizards as, more or less, dragons of knowledge, already isolated from society due to their nerdy pursuits and ever-more-isolated due to their need to (literally) know it all.

I think it might be an interesting challenge for you to play a much more happy-go-lucky, "eternally wowed by the mysteries of the universe" type Wizard, the type that only researches a new spell because it tickles her fancy, or who dives deep into investigating the potential uses of seemingly-useless combinations. This contrasts very heavily from your extremely practically-rooted mindset you've described, where the thing that doesn't change is "I must acquire knowledge so I can acquire power, therefore I must acquire as much knowledge as possible so I can acquire as much power as possible."

If power never becomes a motive because "eh, power, who needs it? I just like looking for answers to weird questions," you might find yourself following a different track.
 

I think power without corruption is a fantasy, and one that breaks verisimilitude for me.
I mean, Cincinnatus was probably a real dude (or, at least, that's the consensus among historians). Some details of his life may have been mythologized, but he almost certainly did actually serve as dictator twice, and we have no reason to believe he did not behave as described in the stories told about him.

Some people really can be given nigh-absolute power and no (external) reason not to use it...and still just walk away.
 

TheSword

Legend
Perhaps I should explain, and I love the “I’m the Sword” references btw!
@TheSword and I have been part of a face-to-face group for many years, with he and I sharing the DM-ing.
He’s an awesome DM and player, but we have a running joke that his spellcaster characters always start as decent enough, but always slide inexorably towards the sinister. The incident with the blanket springs to mind or the cutting off of the thumb or Gaunty in general.
Whilst my own characters are, of course, noble, decent, upstanding and honest, and I have a bridge to sell you!
You go to sleep for 8 hours and wake up to your name being taken in vain!

I am shocked… shocked I say… to discover that people consider TheSword’s characters to be in any way evil!

Sure I played a few necromancers in my time but one was a guardian of the divide between life and death… the one who stood between endless monsters of the abyss and reality. The only reason @GuyBoy called him evil was because he affectionately referred to his thief as ‘pumpkin’.

I also may have played a necromancer who had a darker side but in his defense it was @GuyBoy as DM who cursed him with vampirism half way through the campaign - and he spent the next five levels looking for a cure! A cure… I barely ate three or four people in that campaign.

And sure in Rappan Athuk my sorceress may have been a bit prescriptive, dare I say bossy… but those were dangerous times and really everyone’s life was on the line.

Finally, yes I did have a dwarven slayer-esq character who cut off a party members finger while they slept. (Which obviously woke them up) But that was seriously provoked. I mean I thought the dwarf was being quite restrained to only take a finger when an elf casts dominate on you!

All my characters are assiduously good. I wouldn’t dream of playing evil!

N.B although I have forgotten about any incident with a blanket and now am worried it was so bad I’ve blocked it out. It’s a possibility.🤷🏻‍♂️
 

TheSword

Legend
Where evil is the selfish me-first sort of evil.

So, set entirely aside the problem of backstabbing the party. I never do that - that's not fun (unless that's the point of the entire campaign), and I have never and will never turn mid-fight or steal resources or anything like that. D&D is a group game, and I as a player fully recognize that and have and will always abide by it.

Ok, that aside - whenever I play a pure wizard, the higher they get in levels the more capital-E Evil they become (although never chaotic stupid or extreme murder hobo, but often very, very selfish). And, come to think of it this is really just wizards, never when I have played a warlock or sorcerer, although warlocks can easily trend morally grey/neutral - and multiclassed or dual classed characters never really have the same sort of trajectory. At some point it just becomes blue and orange morality, but it goes through me-first "evil" before it gets there.

It starts, often, with a bit of necromancy - because of course it does. Then come the fiends, and before too long its all about extending life and acquiring more power to extend that life - vampirism, the unholy lich-grail, deals with ruinous powers, etc. More spells, more spell books, more powerful items. Once you can hop the planes, the local matters on whichever planet you happened to hail from seem trivial. Oh? That city will be wiped away? Oh well, can't win em all. Maybe you'll help the party out because it feels a little bit like a family/class reunion of sorts, but then it's back to planewalking. Some of it is how much Jack Vance is still in the wizard spell list - even today, and some of it is just old tropes; hero to Raistlin in just 15 or so levels, right? Along the way they stop agreeing (if they ever agreed) to do things for free, and of course "for the experience" isn't really a motivator with much verisimilitude.

Because of how wizards acquire their powers, this seems like the natural progression for most of them, and the more power they acquire the less the small things seem to matter for them. Other classes don't seem to progress in quite the same way, and I am having trouble putting my finger on why. It's been a long time since I have played a sorcerer, but being so good at the social game makes them more embedded in social structures to my mind - plus the spells known problem makes some of the more bizarre stuff wizards can do too costly in terms of resources. Warlocks are flat out constrained by their list, as are Bards to a certain extent; although a particular kind of murderclowngod bard could very much go down this route, too.


This is such a common turn of events I try to plan against it with backstories and so on, but it never lasts. Some time around levels 9 or 11, they start turning to the dark side. And, again, this is really only wizards. Warlocks? No problem at all. I'm starting to think I should set a "become evil NPC by" date for them when I make them up.
Let’s be honest you’ve just described Rick Sanchez’ life arc!

Three things that alter that curve.

  • Guilt
  • A family
  • Both

Find something that matters more to you than power. Either something you’ve lost that mattered to you (like your surgeons hands for instance) or something that you need to protect (like a grandson).

Incidentally there are plenty of ways of extending life aside from drinking blood or drinking poison and secreting your soul in a box.
 
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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
@ph0rk

I think, perhaps, that the problem may lie in the way you view the relationship between the wizard and their power? That is, it seems to me that you start off with the perspective, "A Wizard desires power, and thus pursues Wizardly ways because those are an excellent investment."

Would you describe any of your Wizards as the kind of people who investigate puzzles or enigmas solely because they are unsolved,

No, because that is nearly all of my other characters, save for the ones that are fools. Solving problems just because they are there is something I have to deliberately write out of a character because that's my natural tendency. That said, an ambitious wizard might still solve such a puzzle because that's where they would hide the good stuff.


I mean, Cincinnatus was probably a real dude (or, at least, that's the consensus among historians). Some details of his life may have been mythologized, but he almost certainly did actually serve as dictator twice, and we have no reason to believe he did not behave as described in the stories told about him.

Some people really can be given nigh-absolute power and no (external) reason not to use it...and still just walk away.

Even if we grant that such a thing is possible (and I'm not sure I do), it certainly isn't the norm. I'm sure there were decisions he may have made that pissed people off enough for them to describe them as amoral. Almost no one revered as a pinnacle of virtue really was one, and there are questions about the legendary account of Cincinnatus (but I'm not a historian). And, of course, immortality was unattainable for Cincinnatus.

Also I think I've left out Psions because it's been an age since I've thought about them, but they tended to follow a similar path, though at times more directly manipulative. And I don't think sorcerers would be precluded from following it, it would simply be more difficult because of the spells known problem. 15 spells known keep you grounded, as it is a check on power.

Let’s be honest you’ve just described Rick Sanchez’ life arc!

Three things that alter that curve.

  • Guilt
  • A family
  • Both

Find something that matters more to you than power. Either something you’ve lost that mattered to you (like your surgeons hands for instance) or something that you need to protect (like a grandson).

Incidentally there are plenty of ways of extending life aside from drinking blood or drinking poison and secreting your soul in a box.

Oh, sure - but vampirism and lichdom have other benefits and are great solutions. Who needs the sun or skin? Sequester can do a lot for you but it doesn't really extend your life, just a poor form of time travel. That said, a few 1000-year sequesters and who are you attached to, anymore?

Once such a long life becomes a possibility, I don't see the sorts of attachments that result in guilt being a factor much more - perhaps if your start point is a 1000 year lifespan. Rick's arc is the way it is because that makes it an approachable show for the simple audience that can't planewalk; we end up seeing him through his family.

Take a Rhialto for example; he tolerates his wizard peers only because he must; any attachments he had to things other than his manse are long dead.

Other fictional comparisons might be Hari Seldon or Dr. Frankenstein. Ambition and a long view, coupled with the fact that by Tier 3 some truly reality warping power becomes available - so the game rules themselves are providing a lot of this structure; which is in part why I don't see Warlocks really going that route in the same way. They'd always be also-rans, and with smaller minds focused on smaller problems; they lack the focus required, anyway.

Wizards that never make it past level 7? Not an issue, they don't have a chance to do much more than dip a toe in the pool of evil.
 

No, because that is nearly all of my other characters, save for the ones that are fools. Solving problems just because they are there is something I have to deliberately write out of a character because that's my natural tendency. That said, an ambitious wizard might still solve such a puzzle because that's where they would hide the good stuff.




Even if we grant that such a thing is possible (and I'm not sure I do), it certainly isn't the norm. I'm sure there were decisions he may have made that pissed people off enough for them to describe them as amoral. Almost no one revered as a pinnacle of virtue really was one, and there are questions about the legendary account of Cincinnatus (but I'm not a historian). And, of course, immortality was unattainable for Cincinnatus.

Also I think I've left out Psions because it's been an age since I've thought about them, but they tended to follow a similar path, though at times more directly manipulative. And I don't think sorcerers would be precluded from following it, it would simply be more difficult because of the spells known problem. 15 spells known keep you grounded, as it is a check on power.



Oh, sure - but vampirism and lichdom have other benefits and are great solutions. Who needs the sun or skin? Sequester can do a lot for you but it doesn't really extend your life, just a poor form of time travel. That said, a few 1000-year sequesters and who are you attached to, anymore?

Once such a long life becomes a possibility, I don't see the sorts of attachments that result in guilt being a factor much more - perhaps if your start point is a 1000 year lifespan. Rick's arc is the way it is because that makes it an approachable show for the simple audience that can't planewalk; we end up seeing him through his family.

Take a Rhialto for example; he tolerates his wizard peers only because he must; any attachments he had to things other than his manse are long dead.

Other fictional comparisons might be Hari Seldon or Dr. Frankenstein. Ambition and a long view, coupled with the fact that by Tier 3 some truly reality warping power becomes available - so the game rules themselves are providing a lot of this structure; which is in part why I don't see Warlocks really going that route in the same way. They'd always be also-rans, and with smaller minds focused on smaller problems; they lack the focus required, anyway.

Wizards that never make it past level 7? Not an issue, they don't have a chance to do much more than dip a toe in the pool of evil.
I dm’d a game where the wizard had ‘retired’ from wizardry and had settled down on a farm with a wife and kids to live a simple life.

Events forced him out of retirement in order to protect his family and his simple, quiet life.

It was interesting to see how he strove to be an example to his children, even when they weren’t there (to be the father they’d be proud of) and the altruism he showed to the simple people who lived the life he valued and was protecting. It became the rock in the chaotic storm that grounded him to his values and kept him from losing his humanity.
 

It seems to me that it might help focusing on what your character wants to accomplish. Power is a tool and tools have a purpose.

If the goal is "live forever", then sliding toward evil does seem inevitable. But there are other goals: "eliminate suffering", "bring back a loved one", "solve an ancient mystery", etc. where you still need power, but it's not for you.

Maybe you still end up on "the dark side" pursuing those goals, the road to hell and good intentions and all that. But at that point it should be about your character ignoring the good thing they are trying to accomplish, or sacrificing other good things so they can accomplish it, rather than.."Well I guess I'll just make an undead slave army because I can"
 

Stormonu

Legend
Very few people can handle the equivalent of Superman's powers without devolving into a supervillian, but we do occasionally see such characters in literature (Superman, King Arthur come to mind) - and much, much less historically. I think we've all see how in our lifetimes how accumulation of power - and the desire to accumulate more can twist an otherwise moral individual into acts that onlookers would easily describe as immoral at best, and evil in most cases.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Because of how wizards acquire their powers, this seems like the natural progression for most of them, and the more power they acquire the less the small things seem to matter for them. Other classes don't seem to progress in quite the same way, and I am having trouble putting my finger on why. It's been a long time since I have played a sorcerer, but being so good at the social game makes them more embedded in social structures to my mind - plus the spells known problem makes some of the more bizarre stuff wizards can do too costly in terms of resources. Warlocks are flat out constrained by their list, as are Bards to a certain extent; although a particular kind of murderclowngod bard could very much go down this route, too.

First of all, if that's your frequent character concept preference, nothing wrong with that.

I am somewhat not surprised that it doesn't happen when you play Warlocks, because each of their archetype already comes with a moral connotation. It is not mandatory to follow it strictly and even possible to roleplay against it, but I suppose in most cases it directs the player towards a certain alignment or ethics, which is not evil for all Warlock archetypes.

I am a bit more surprised instead that it doesn't happen to Sorcerers... I would think that between them and Wizards there is the same unspecified/open morality from the class description. I hadn't thought that being high-Cha could actually steer a character towards good. If anything, my typical mental image of a "Sorcerer" is actually darker and shadier than Wizard. First image that comes to my mind saying Wizard is a joyful grey-haired old person in starry robes and pointy hat swinging a sparkling wand to make children laugh, and saying Sorcerer is a crooked-faced gnarly-handed person looking over their shoulder while attending a boiling cauldron in a shadowy lair :p
 

It's not like 'evil wizard' is the only stereotype. White Wizards are a common trope. With that in mind, think of the goals and aspirations of a White Wizard. Arguably, Gandalf had Universe Changing power but he never used it selfishly.

It's a shame that 5e separated wizard by school instead of by actual archetype.

A White wizard could have many helpful spells such as curing the sick and healing people. As it is, you'd need to multi-class to get that. Or play a bard reskinned as a wizard.
 




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