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Is killing a Goblin who begs for mercy evil?

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
At my table, paladins show mercy not because they are lawful or good, but because they are paladins. Their faith and devotion to higher powers, their sacred Oaths, are far more important than just the alignment axis. Their belief in the powers of mercy and redemption, and their desire to redeem all who would ask for it, are what separate Paladins from "fighters who go to church."
 

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GreyLord

Hero
It's a long question from long ago, but has basically been answered by Paizo and others I believe. In the pathfinder universe (golarion and starfinder for the most part) killing a goblin which was begging for mercy is an evil act.

Goblins are not necessarily murder machines in Pathfinder.

ON the otherhand, it is the GM's game to decide upon rule interpretations and they are the final word on the matter at the table, especially (or doubly so) if in their own homebrew world.
 

Dausuul

Legend
The nice thing about zombie threads, like all zombies, is they never beg for mercy in the first place.

As for the OP, I'm inclined to answer with a big fat "It depends." Assuming this is not the middle of a battle, the paladin should at least hear the goblin out. If it is feasible to take the goblin prisoner and give it a chance to redeem itself, the paladin should do so. On the other hand, Lawful Good does not mean Lawful Stupid; the goblin does not get a free pass to run away and plot an ambush because it grovels a bit. And if the goblin does not in fact redeem itself while prisoner, it may end up facing execution for its crimes...

...assuming it committed any. Much depends on why the party was fighting the goblins to begin with. If the goblins were raiding and killing innocent people, that's one thing. If the PCs are on a quest and the goblins attack them, well, they may have started the fight, but you're intruding on their territory. You should be looking for an opportunity to make peace.

And if the PCs just saw some goblins minding their own business and carved into them, it doesn't matter what you do with the survivor of the massacre; the paladin fell from grace at the first blow.
 

wicked cool

Adventurer
The real question is goblins attacked the village and killed some villagers. The paladin and the party comes in saves the village. The last goblin flees saying I surrender and wont do it again. As its leaving the paladin pulls out her/his bow and shoots the goblin in the back.

the DM says that's an evil act and strips the paladin of holy powers.

I'll speak for myself-I'm leaving the table. Organized play I politely excuse myself and check out.

this is a game of killing monsters and getting treasure.
 

Read supulchrave’s story hour (on this board) which starts off with a high level Paladin showing mercy to a succubus who tried to seduce and corrupt him. After she begs for mercy and promises to ‘change’. Can fiends be remorseful ? Is it possible?

read it. It’s amazing.
 

Filthy Lucre

Explorer
The real question is goblins attacked the village and killed some villagers. The paladin and the party comes in saves the village. The last goblin flees saying I surrender and wont do it again. As its leaving the paladin pulls out her/his bow and shoots the goblin in the back.

the DM says that's an evil act and strips the paladin of holy powers.

I'll speak for myself-I'm leaving the table. Organized play I politely excuse myself and check out.

this is a game of killing monsters and getting treasure.
I would love to know what counts as an evil act to you, if not lying about showing mercy and then killing an unarmed/non-hostile creature.

The rules text for paladins clearly intends for there to be actions that paladins can't perform and that alignment is more than window dressing for them. So are you saying you don't agree with that rule? Or are you honestly going to try and make an affirmative case for the morality of out-and-out murder? Your last sentence is very much in the vein of the 'sword and sorcery' genre... but paladins as such are not in that genre.

The scene you describe is like... the classic "this character is a villain, not a hero" trope that you see in media.
 
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wicked cool

Adventurer
I didn’t say the paladin lied or said anything

my scenario is the goblins attacked and the line goblin says I’m sure ending and runs away

I argue the paladin can kill it at that point without losing powers. I’m treating the goblin like a wolf that runs away. To be clear the paladin has said nothing
 

Filthy Lucre

Explorer
I didn’t say the paladin lied or said anything

my scenario is the goblins attacked and the line goblin says I’m sure ending and runs away

I argue the paladin can kill it at that point without losing powers. I’m treating the goblin like a wolf that runs away. To be clear the paladin has said nothing
K, that's fine, except that your scenario explicitly contradicts the rules-as-written. Because goblins are not wolves - they're as close to humans as elves are.

So, replace "goblin" with "elf" - an elf surrenders and promises to never raid a village again and then when he leaves you shoot him in the back. Good or evil?

You can run your own personal game however you want - but this discussion was never about peoples home games but rather what the RAW supports. So your comment that you would walk out of game that people ran by the rules as explicitly defined in the core rule book comes off more than a little petulant.
 
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wicked cool

Adventurer
according to D&D beyond a goblin is a neutral evil creature and is far different from an elf while I believe a wolf is unaligned

so are we saying in D&D league play that if the goblins run away then the paladin cant give chase and kill them. The paladin know they will most likely come back . Not seeing this as a violation of their oath

I don't see that the paladin has to lose their powers. Are we saying that Moradin would take a dwarves powers away if they did this to a drow in the underdark
 

Filthy Lucre

Explorer
according to D&D beyond a goblin is a neutral evil creature and is far different from an elf while I believe a wolf is unaligned

so are we saying in D&D league play that if the goblins run away then the paladin cant give chase and kill them. The paladin know they will most likely come back . Not seeing this as a violation of their oath

I don't see that the paladin has to lose their powers. Are we saying that Moradin would take a dwarves powers away if they did this to a drow in the underdark
You're in the Pathfinder/Starfinder forum, sport, not the D&D forum. So... none of that matters.

But, just for the record, Moradin would absolutely punish a paladin for killing a surrendered/helpless enemy. The price of being good is that you have to take unnecessary risks - otherwise you're just neutral/amoral. There is no good god in the D&D pantheon that would consider killing a helpless/surrendered creature, who has free will and is capable of being redeemed, a non-evil act.

So the answer is: In Adventure League play you can be absolutely sure that the scenario you describe is an evil act, as per even D&D's moral/alignment system.

Like I said, you run your game however you want, but your elementary-school level of morality is not supported by either PF2e or D&D 5e. Both of those systems allow PCs to be goblins and it doesn't force them to be NE. So the claim that "all goblins are evil" is demonstrably/completely false.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Real life example:

My family is Jewish. My grandfather came to the US from Germany in 1938, fleeing the Nazis. December 1941 - hostilities break out and the US is drawn into WWII. My grandfather enlists. When Uncle Sam realized that he was a native German speaker, they realized that he'd be useful translating.

Fast-forward to 1945. He's assigned to one of the divisions liberating the camps. While rounding up SS stragglers, he asks one of the guards, "How could you kill all these people?" The guard said that they were Jews, not people. So, my grandfather took his gun, handed it to his platoon mates, and then beat the Nazi to death with his hands.

Question: Was this murder?

Legally speaking, yes. It was murder. The Nazi had surrendered and was a prisoner. What my grandfather did was a war crime.

However, the analysis does not end there.

The question then becomes was my grandfather justified? I'd say yes and I suspect many others would as well. This doesn't negate the moral culpability of the action but rather mitigates the punishment.

Back to this example: Is killing a goblin who has surrendered an evil act?

Let's start by clarifying the question. Define "surrender." Is he allowing himself to be taken prisoner? If yes, that's a surrender. If no, that's not surrender; that's retreat. We'll get to that in a moment.

Is killing a prisoner an evil act? By this, do you mean is killing a prisoner an act of murder? Legally speaking, yes. It is murder. Is the paladin justified in murdering the goblin? That would depend on the paladin's god. The GM needs to RP from the perspective of that god to determine whether to revoke the paladin's powers.

Is the goblin retreating? If so, what sort of threat does this one goblin pose? Could he reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the paladin, the party, or civilians? If yes, then I would say that that would not necessarily be murder but, again, depending on the paladin's god, could require some kind of act of expiation.

Again, it's not a binary. The circumstances need to be examined and the GM needs to look at what happened from the point of view of not only the rulebook, but the deity granting those powers as well. Some gods recognize mercy while others demand vengeance.
 

Filthy Lucre

Explorer
Question: Was this murder?

Legally speaking, yes. It was murder. The Nazi had surrendered and was a prisoner. What my grandfather did was a war crime.
Analysis, for me, stops at "was it legally murder". Yes, so the act is evil. Done and dusted. So assuming that Paladins, as in core D&D, must be some stripe of good, must also worship a good deity, and no good deity in the D&D pantheon would condone murder, power ought to be stripped.

"Some gods recognize mercy while others demand vengeance." Yeah - specifically the non-good or evil gods. The kind that endorse and allow non-good and evil behavior.
 
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wicked cool

Adventurer
This seems a little grey in both pathfinder and 5e

where is the hard rule on this?

real world is a slippery slope

my argument was the goblin is fleeing not hands up
 

nevin

Adventurer
The way I do it is by the power judging you. For non clerics and paladins it's generally only going to be judged by the local authorities.

Now if the character ever asks a god or power for help, it'll be the powers perception of the actions to date that matter. Not some arbitrary definition of good or evil. If most goblins are evil then a good power could hate them as much as anyone else. I think of Powers as PC's that made it to the top. They aren't omnipitent or or perfect in alignment.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, I would certainly agree with you if the Goblins were just normal people. But according to RAW, those with an Evil alignment seek to actively hurt, opress, and kill other sentients. So even if they aren't doing anything, they are probably cooking up an evil scheme, or preparing an assault or something. So wouldn't it be like attacking a band of wolves who hadn't done anything, just because you know that they pose a threat to you and would kill you at a moment's notice if given the chance?
Going out of your way to kill wolves that have not attacked your people or livestock is absolutely, without question, an act of incredibly detestable evil.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
To the direct point of the OP, the rules are less important than the people playing the game. Always.

If your paladin player is going to have hard time believing his Paladin is Good if they're expected to kill goblins for existing, your game is going to suffer if you force that dynamic into it.

Also I'm pretty sure Goblins in PF are even less "automatically and always evil" than they are in DnD.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I would love to know what counts as an evil act to you, if not lying about showing mercy and then killing an unarmed/non-hostile creature.
You grossly misread his post.

"The real question is goblins attacked the village and killed some villagers."

So much for non-hostile and unarmed. It murdered villages with quite a bit of hostility.

"The paladin and the party comes in saves the village."

Okay.

"The last goblin flees saying I surrender and wont do it again."

Nowhere does it say that the Paladin agreed to mercy, lying to it. Or that it dropped its weapon.

"As its leaving the paladin pulls out her/his bow and shoots the goblin in the back."

He killed a hostile murderer that said it surrendered, and then it showed that it was still evil when it lied and ran away rather than surrendering. The Paladin is under no obligation to let it go so that it can murder other people later.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So, replace "goblin" with "elf" - an elf surrenders and promises to never raid a village again and then when he leaves you shoot him in the back. Good or evil?
So we have an elf that just murdered villagers. It promises to never raid again and asks to be able to leave, because if it doesn't ask I'm ordering it to stop and face justice and if it asks, I'm saying no and telling it that it's going to face justice. If the murdering elf says it won't kill again and tries to flee justice, then I'm going to try and capture it, killing it if necessary. It takes more than, "Hey, I really didn't mean it when I chopped the heads off of 5 villagers. I won't do it again." to show that it has changed its tune. That and if you surrender, you are captured. You don't get to leave the village. Leaving is not a part of surrendering.

Now to the good/evil part of your question. Since I'm chasing down a fleeing prisoner who murdered villagers, capture is the goal. However, capture is not always feasible. If it fights to the death, the elf will die. If it does choose to die by fighting back and not surrendering, it's neither a good act, nor an evil one.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, just for the record, Moradin would absolutely punish a paladin for killing a surrendered/helpless enemy. The price of being good is that you have to take unnecessary risks - otherwise you're just neutral/amoral. There is no good god in the D&D pantheon that would consider killing a helpless/surrendered creature, who has free will and is capable of being redeemed, a non-evil act.
Gary Gygax stated that if you have an evil creature that surrendered and then converted to good alignment, it would be a LG act for a Paladin to then execute the creature so that it doesn't backslide again.

I don't agree with what Gygax said, but perhaps Moradin wouldn't absolutely punish the Paladin for killing a surrendered helpless enemy of the dwarven people. It depends on the DM and how dwarves and goblins are run in that game, as well as how alignment is run.
 

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