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Is killing a Goblin who begs for mercy evil?

TheSword

Legend
Exactly. In other words, race is one of the very few identifiers where you know if you can kill without hesitation. I'm glad you see that your statement that race is irrelevant was incorrect.
I’ll be honest I don’t view demons as races. They are monsters. You don’t say the race of griffons or the race of black puddings.

Consider it a amendment to my statement not a repudiation of it. Regarding sentient creatures not inimicable to human life, like the example of goblins given in this thread, I do consider race irrelevant.
 

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the_David

Explorer
I sort of see the fact that Goblins are, as a race, Evil, as meaning that they are like intelligent wolves, or like Nazis who were evil from birth.
How can you come to a conclusion like that? German boys had to join the Hitler jugend for manditory indoctrination lessons, before they were drafted into the army as cannonfodder. How can you think an entire group of people is evil? Those people were victims of an oppressive regime. Okay, maybe not all of them, but many were. Pope Benedict was in the Hitler Jugend. Schindler was a nazi.

As for your player, he's telling you that he doesn't like your black and white morality and that he wants more shades of gray. Maybe it's a good idea to start writing some real villains with actual motivation rather than the boring evil for the sake of evil Disney villains. If you don't you might lose a player, as he doesn't seem pleased with your GM style.

And seriously, if you don't want moral grey areas, why would you let the goblin beg for mercy in the first place?
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
At my table?

If a creature has enough sentience, intelligence, and self-awareness to beg for mercy in the first place, and you choose to ignore its pleas and kill that creature, I would rule that you have committed an evil act. The laws of the realm might disagree over what you did was a crime, though, since goblins (or other sentient, intelligent, self-aware creatures) might not have fair status and representation in certain parts of the realm. Whether or not the town guard will prosecute you for what you've done, and how the gods will judge you for it, are two different consequences of that action. Both should be considered carefully.
 


d24454_modern

Explorer
As for your player, he's telling you that he doesn't like your black and white morality and that he wants more shades of gray. Maybe it's a good idea to start writing some real villains with actual motivation rather than boring the evil for the sake of evil Disney villains. If you don't you might lose a player, as he doesn't seem pleased with your GM style.
Kinda off topic but I hate the idea that a straight-up evil villain is automatically boring or bad.

I would say "yes, killing the Goblin in that state would be evil". Even if the Goblin raped and murdered a village, it's bad to kill anyone in that sate. It would be understandable but still evil.

Killing the Goblin because you can't enact proper punishment against them would be neutral though.
 

the_David

Explorer
Kinda off topic but I hate the idea that a straight-up evil villain is automatically boring or bad.
You might have a point there but I'm talking about... uhm. The best example I can come up with right now is Swiper from Dora the Explorer. Sorry. The kind of antagonist who is just there because the writer thought the story needed an antagonist.

Another example would be the goblins in Sunless Citadel. There's nothing in the plothooks that tells the players they are evil, and yet the adventure expects that the players will invade the home they've been living in for at least 13 years and slaughter them all. The only thing they might have done that could be percieved as evil is owning a barrel of elf pudding and there's no way for the players to find out this information except by finding that barrel.

In contrast, skeletons and zombies on Golarion are evil because someone killed them, took their soul and mangled it and then put it back into their rotting corpse. Demons are the reincarnations of the sins of mortals cast into the abyss. Mind flayers eat the brains of what they consider to be lesser beings, much like we might eat the meat of animals. For them it's a necessity to survive, but we would consider that evil. Even Javert in Les Miserables has a reason to do the things he does, even though it's a flimsy one at best.
All af these are better justifications for being evil than just needing an antagonist for the story.

I'm curious if you can come up with an example of a straight-up evil villain who isn't boring or bad. I'd love to hear about those.
 

d24454_modern

Explorer
You might have a point there but I'm talking about... uhm. The best example I can come up with right now is Swiper from Dora the Explorer. Sorry. The kind of antagonist who is just there because the writer thought the story needed an antagonist.

Another example would be the goblins in Sunless Citadel. There's nothing in the plothooks that tells the players they are evil, and yet the adventure expects that the players will invade the home they've been living in for at least 13 years and slaughter them all. The only thing they might have done that could be percieved as evil is owning a barrel of elf pudding and there's no way for the players to find out this information except by finding that barrel.

In contrast, skeletons and zombies on Golarion are evil because someone killed them, took their soul and mangled it and then put it back into their rotting corpse. Demons are the reincarnations of the sins of mortals cast into the abyss. Mind flayers eat the brains of what they consider to be lesser beings, much like we might eat the meat of animals. For them it's a necessity to survive, but we would consider that evil. Even Javert in Les Miserables has a reason to do the things he does, even though it's a flimsy one at best.
All af these are better justifications for being evil than just needing an antagonist for the story.

I'm curious if you can come up with an example of a straight-up evil villain who isn't boring or bad. I'd love to hear about those.
I always find it funny how undead always become super evil even if they were nice people when they were alive. If the necromancy process actually turns them evil, then it's a good reason why necromancers have such a bad name.

It's not that a pure evil villain can't have a backstory; it's that said backstory isn't enough to justify whatever actions they committed.

Lex Luthor had a horrible home life but that's not enough to justify him becoming a corporate tyrant. that also doesn't hinder his entertainment value as a villain.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
You might have a point there but I'm talking about... uhm. The best example I can come up with right now is Swiper from Dora the Explorer. Sorry. The kind of antagonist who is just there because the writer thought the story needed an antagonist.

Another example would be the goblins in Sunless Citadel. There's nothing in the plothooks that tells the players they are evil, and yet the adventure expects that the players will invade the home they've been living in for at least 13 years and slaughter them all. The only thing they might have done that could be percieved as evil is owning a barrel of elf pudding and there's no way for the players to find out this information except by finding that barrel.

In contrast, skeletons and zombies on Golarion are evil because someone killed them, took their soul and mangled it and then put it back into their rotting corpse. Demons are the reincarnations of the sins of mortals cast into the abyss. Mind flayers eat the brains of what they consider to be lesser beings, much like we might eat the meat of animals. For them it's a necessity to survive, but we would consider that evil. Even Javert in Les Miserables has a reason to do the things he does, even though it's a flimsy one at best.
All af these are better justifications for being evil than just needing an antagonist for the story.

I'm curious if you can come up with an example of a straight-up evil villain who isn't boring or bad. I'd love to hear about those.
yeaaaaah lots of traditional D&D adventures have "player is expected to kill everyone at this location just because they exist in this location"

And lot of older bestiary entries in classic D&D are like "here is few paragraphs on what goblin culture is like. None of it actually explains why the statblock says they are always chaotic evil".

I much prefer PF2e approach here. Like why are gnolls evil? Answer is "Well, they aren't actually always evil, but tend to be often CE or CN because their culture is utterly about pragmatism and survivalists. Different tribes have different focus, CE ones focus more on raiding and slavery while CN ones focus more on isolationism. That and they are cannibals and consider it disrespectful to not eat your corpse which tends to put them at odds with other cultures."
 

d24454_modern

Explorer
yeaaaaah lots of traditional D&D adventures have "player is expected to kill everyone at this location just because they exist in this location"

And lot of older bestiary entries in classic D&D are like "here is few paragraphs on what goblin culture is like. None of it actually explains why the statblock says they are always chaotic evil".

I much prefer PF2e approach here. Like why are gnolls evil? Answer is "Well, they aren't actually always evil, but tend to be often CE or CN because their culture is utterly about pragmatism and survivalists. Different tribes have different focus, CE ones focus more on raiding and slavery while CN ones focus more on isolationism. That and they are cannibals and consider it disrespectful to not eat your corpse which tends to put them at odds with other cultures."
I feel like it comes from the idea that the only way to get XP is by outright killing the enemy when that was never the case.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
That this is a question requiring 6 pages of discussion and debate is the surest possible proof that D&D's alignment system is the product of brainworms and should be resigned to the dustbin of history alongside similarly terrible features, such as gendered Strength caps and THAC0
 

But the Paladin's Detect Evil is accurate. If the creature merits mercy, he will not detect as evil. If his evil intent remains, then he detects as such and can be slain as a non-evil, albeit non-good, act.

Detect Evil is NOT a lie detector. It only tells you if the creature is evil, not if it plans to betray you.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
That this is a question requiring 6 pages of discussion and debate is the surest possible proof that D&D's alignment system is the product of brainworms and should be resigned to the dustbin of history alongside similarly terrible features, such as gendered Strength caps and THAC0
I mean do note, this is ten year old thread that got necromancered after ten year break between posts :D
 


Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
"Please, don't kill Dzat. Dzat good goblin now, Dzat promises!"
Paladin, holding his holy avenger on the foul creature's throat: "Hum, let's wait a decade while I commune with my goddess, Enworld, to know if I should give your mercy".
"But... In 10 years, Dzat will be dead of old age! Commune is supposed to have a casting time of ONE MINUTE" croaks at some point
Paladin, lowering his sword: "Praised be the Goddess, for she works in mysterious ways but somehow neatly resolved my alignment conundrum."
 
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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
I'm curious if you can come up with an example of a straight-up evil villain who isn't boring or bad. I'd love to hear about those.
I think it depends on the narrative, and specifically how much access you have to that villain's inner life or motivations.

In non-gaming narratives, character's like Randall Flagg (aka The Walkin' Dude) in The Stand (novel) or the way Satan is presented in Constantine (movie) are arguably interesting and compelling. And as much as the movie Seven mines John Doe's supposed righteousness, he is straight-up evil, with nothing redeeming and a perspective that the movie rejects (even if some dummies in the audience don't).

In games, though, because they're so player-facing, I think you often don't get as much of a chance to know what drives a given villain, anyway. Not saying that's a universal rule, but unless the tone allows for villain monologues, some big bads will remain sort of a cipher until the very end. And I think that can still absolutely work, especially if they're unknowable. Like the Mythos in Call of Cthulhu, or any other inherently alien force. As long as there are more relatable villainous types around, those more opaque and just all-out evil ones can be plenty interesting. They become less like some X-men or Buffy quasi-villain, all gorgeous angst and romantic rebellion, and more like a theme or symbol.

And I'd argue that inaccessible evil can work in non-gaming narratives too, like the Zodiac killer in the movie Zodiac, or Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. That they're impossible to sympathize with is what makes them, and their stories, so compelling--you're staring into the abyss, rather than nodding along because hey, the abyss makes some good points.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
I feel like it comes from the idea that the only way to get XP is by outright killing the enemy when that was never the case.
It's a natural consequence of official DM advice to lower XP rewards if the players take steps to make the encounter "easier", such as softening them up first or creating environmental disadvatanges for them. After all, what's easier than not fighting at all?
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
I mean do note, this is ten year old thread that got necromancered after ten year break between posts :D
...
ryan reynolds hd GIF
 

d24454_modern

Explorer
That this is a question requiring 6 pages of discussion and debate is the surest possible proof that D&D's alignment system is the product of brainworms and should be resigned to the dustbin of history alongside similarly terrible features, such as gendered Strength caps and THAC0
Ehh, I feel like that idea is born out of laziness. After all, if killing a surrendering Goblin is considered bad, then it would cheat player out of casting fireball.

Essentially, it's only considered a problem because the player can be punished for doing so.
 

Well, point blank, Batman doesn't have the means to fix Arkham Asylum or Gotham City's notoriously corrupt police department. He's not capable of making everyone else involved do the right thing. He does not bear more responsibility for the Joker's third-and-subsequent crime sprees than the Joker himself does, or Gotham PD, or the faculty and staff at Arkham Asylum. He's just the only person who ever has the capacity and the authority to do so at the same time.
He’s a billionaire in a city that is known to be corrupt. He absolutely has the means to fix Arkham Asylum or the police department.

Can the mob really outbid Bruce Wayne on the next election for police commissioner? If they do, is it even worthwhile to do so?
 

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