D&D 5E The Multiverse is back....

pemerton

Legend
It's interesting you think that's how alignment was in 4e... but I've got to ask how do you reconcile that view with the fact that 4e does actually have alignment dependent mechanics...

The Purple Dragon Theme requires that a character be good or lawful good...
Corruption effects from The Book of Vile Darkness and some diseases affect alignment...
There are alignment requirements for certain epic destinies and paragon paths...
The only references to alignment in the BoVD GM-side mecanics I noticed were in the Lingering Evil terrian (penalises the actions of good characters) and in the Faceless Hate disease (turns the victim into an evil person). The latter is easily interpreted as a personality change - the disease makes you violent and hateful - while the former is up there with the power of the paladin paragon path Astral Weapon (PHB p 100) which has an effect that triggers on killing an evil or CE target. Namely, it is very easily ignored.

Likewise those few PC build elements that have alignment requirements.

I don't see how the presence of these features has any bearing on my claim that the cosmology operates independenty of alignment. (Or on my claim that alignment is presented as a tool of moral categorisation.)
 

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Nivenus

First Post
Where is the semantic obtuseness?

As a simple matter of dictionary meaning, "better" in English means "more good".

Hence, to say that (say) Olympus is a morally better place than Elysium - which, in canonical D&D, is the opinion of the Greek hero or the dissolute bard - means that Olympus is being desribed as more morally good than Elysium.

Yet we also have these descriptions of Elysium as being more morally good - "unsullied" - than Olympus.

How is that coherent?

It's coherent because "good" in D&D terms means something very specific, as has been pointed out. And that specific value set may or may not be all that matters to a character. A chaotic good character believes charity, compassion, and hope are all excellent virtues, but they believe they are either A) must be shared alongside the values of self-reliance, free thought, and freedom from compulsion or B) that they are at their best when coupled with the latter. Likewise for a lawful good character and the values of law relative to the values of "good." On the other hand, a lawful neutral or chaotic neutral character does not believe the values of D&D "good" have any intrinsic value (or that if they do they are nowhere near the values of law and chaos). Neutral evil characters value very little beyond their own self-interest and gratification, while lawful evil and chaotic evil characters' selfishness is somewhat tempered by their adherence to law and chaos.

From the perspective of each of these other alignments, neutral good characters place an overly high value on certain virtues that are either incomplete (lawful good and chaotic good), insignificant (lawful neutral and chaotic neutral), or callow (evil). From each particular alignment's perspective, Elysium is imperfect and therefore not the "best" plane, even if it exemplifies the purest form of "good." Because good on its own isn't what they value (if they value it at all).

You can render it coherent by supposing that the bard isn't making a moral judgement - in saying that Olympus is a better place than Elysium s/he is saying that s/he personally prefers it despite its moral flaws. But if that is so, then we are conceding that law/chaos is not a morally deep distinction, but more a matter of outlook and inclination.

Which is sensible enough, but not really consistent with the default D&D 9-point, 2-axis approach to alignment.

It's totally consistent with the 2-axis approach! The entire point of having a perpendicular axis to good and evil is that law and chaos have equal value in the eyes of many inhabitants of the multiverse! If law and chaos were considered wholly inferior to good, than you'd have a point, but the fact of the matter is that this isn't how the multiverse's inhabitants perceive it.

The Aztecs considered themselves to be good, too. Nearly every organised human social system regards itself as good. In D&D, orcs and goblins regard their brutal social structures as good.

But D&D, in its default form, takes the view that thinking you are doing the right thing doesn't make it so.

You are right insofar as good has a clear definition in the rules. But that definition leaves out several principles that many characters consider valuable. And they don't care one whit if neutral good characters find those values arbitrary, because they believe in them. In the end, good is just a label for the particular value system that "pure" neutral good exemplifies best, but it doesn't necessarily match the value system of other characters of cultures. A lawful good character thinks the values of law are also important (but not as important as lawful neutrals would have it); a chaotic good character likewise believes the values of chaos are important (but not as much as a chaotic neutral character does).

Then I don't have to puzzle over what "Detect Good" is actually detecting: not actual goodness (because on this approach people who are not good can still end up in charge of Celestia or Olympus), nor any distinctive value commitment (because the LG and CG people are committed to different value schemes). I can replace it with something like "Detect Religion" or "Detect Enemy", or just ignore it altogether.

Detect good, at its most basic, is essentially detecting whether a creature is how closely aligned to the forces of supernatural "good" (that is to say "good" deities, angels, etc.). That's why supernatural creatures and clerics come up more strongly than regular mortals, no matter how good they might be. The same goes for detect evil: it's detecting whether the creature is aligned with supernatural "evil," not their sum total karma (which doesn't really exist as such in D&D).

This is an argument, though, that refraining from telling the harsh truth isn't actually good at all.

That's the perspective a lawful good or chaotic good character is likely to take. It's harder (though not impossible) for a neutral good character though, who just wants everyone to be happy.

In D&D, why can't I just use a simple divination spell to find out which behaviour is better: telling the harsh truth, or telling the white lie?

There's a few problems with this approach:

  1. What's the divination spell supposed to show you... the consequences? If so it's actually kind of irrelevant; D&D alignment is primarily defined by means, rather than ends.
  2. Is the divination spell 100% reliable? Because a lot can depend on who you're asking, how you're asking it, and why you're asking it. Divination is a notoriously fickle field of magic (after all, it'd be no fun if you could just summon up answers to whatever questions you had whenever you wanted to).
  3. And again, a lawful good character is (often) just as concerned as to whether an act is lawful as whether it is good. And a chaotic good character wants to make sure their act isn't unnecessarily lawful as well. So determining which is more "good" isn't the end of the discussion.

But all this tells us is that the alignment scheme has broken down. In Nirvana, human dignity and welfare are acknowledged, and there is no needless or pointless suffering. It's hard to explain, then, when we have regard to the relevant definitions, why Nirvana is not a good place.

Because conformity, obedience, and discipline come before the values of good in every equation. There's no suffering but there's none of the things a neutral good character would value and a paucity of those a lawful good character would value.

But not in a coherent fashion. If we're going for "liberalism for the liberals, cannibalism for the cannibals" then why isn't Limbo a good plane - after all, it fully realises the wellbeing of its inhabitants?

Same answer; a neutral good character wouldn't enjoy Limbo as an afterlife and a lawful good character would rather intensely loathe it (although not as much as the Abyss).

But then that objective meaure of goodness is then what makes the LG/CG dispute inocherent - either they are objectively equivalent (value pluralism), in which case there is no bais for deep dispute, or one is objectively inferior to the other and hence not fully good.

Only if you consider good to be inherently better than law and chaos, which isn't the way the nine-alignment system is designed; lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, true neutral characters are just as valid for play as lawful good, chaotic good, and neutral good characters are.

"Altruism" - regard for others - is not a synonym for charity.

It's not an exact synonym, I'll grant you that. But it is related. Most precisely altruism means unselfish regard for others and one of the most selfless ways you can show your regard for others is by giving of yourself to them; it needn't be a monetary gift (not all charity is monetary), but the point is you're giving up something of yourself for others.

Nor is respect for life synonymous with mercy.

It's awfully close. It means you respect the sanctity of life, which means that you generally believe killing is wrong, even when it's for a righteous cause. Mercy naturally follows from that.

This is not a correct description of those vaue systems. Systems that value freedom - ie liberal and other enlightenment systems - value freedom because it is part of human dignity, and proper altruism (ie proper regard for others) demands respect for their dignity. Kant and Rawls, for instance, don't regard respect for freedom as orthogonal to morality - respect for free equaity is, for both, the core moral principle.

But there are some value systems where freedom has a higher premium than human life or the happiness of others. Individual liberty, these people argue (and I'm trying to avoid stepping on the toes of discussing real-life politics here, even though I'm speaking largely of historical cases) can never come at too high a price. Likewise, there are value systems that consider obedience to authority, honor, and discipline to be more important than whether or not a person is happy. These value systems aren't "good" in the D&D sense, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have no sense of human well-being: they just believe happiness and the right to life are shallow interpretations of such a concept.

My point is that, in a definition of goodness that is meant to make it permissible to be both LG and CG, it is somewhat contradictory to build in the value of freedom. Which I see as running my way - even Gygax, who was purporting to present the G/E axis and L/C axis as orthogonal, wasn't able to maintain the distinction. In setting out a conception of human wellbeing, he couldn't help but incorporate elements that, notionally, are meant to be part of L/C and hence orthogonal to the concept of wellbeing defined on the G/E axis.

Two points here:

  1. I don't agree. I think it's entirely possible for a "broad definition" of good to include concepts that both chaotic good and lawful good characters value. Indeed such a broad definition seems otherwise useless.
  2. Gygax isn't the be-all, end-all to the nine-alignment system. His involvement ended with D&D ended at 1st edition and many, many designers and writers have contributed to the discussion of what the nine alignments mean (among many other concepts) since then. Their accumulated additions are just as valuable as what Gygax originally intended, whatever that is (though it still seems to me defining the American Constitution as CG was what he was going for).

I think everyone posting in this thread, at this point, is familiar with and capable of running sophisticated games. My question is more narrow - how is a 9-point alignment + cosmology helping with this? How does is the question of "who's right and who's wrong?" opened up by using good and evil as defined scriptors for certain characters and their home bases?

Prima facie, at least, those descriptors answer the question before we even sit down to play.

See, I don't see it that way (although I understand why some people might).

My introduction to tabletop roleplaying was the 3rd edition of D&D, some time around the early-mid aughts (I honestly forget when precisely). And I remember thinking the 9-alignment system was really sophisticated, especially compared to the simplistic dualism you usually get in most fantasy. There was no simple, binary choice between the "light side" and the "dark side;" there was no choice between simply being good and evil. Instead you had 9 alignments, 5 of which (LN/LG/NG/CG/CN) all seemed to have some claim to being righteous, 3 of which (LE/NE/CE) that could represent most villains, and 1 which represented those who felt all of the above were a bunch of sanctimonious jerks.

I'll admit I'm more likely to play lawful good or neutral good than any other alignment, but I like the fact that the system allows other perspectives. To me, it encourages sophisticated thinking on what's the moral or ethical choice, rather than simply handing you a very cut-and-dry interpretation the way most fantasy settings do.

This is something I felt 4e's alignment system lacked: it's layout of lawful good, good, unaligned, evil, and chaotic evil seemed to imply (whether intentionally or not) that lawful good and chaotic evil were, respectively, the best good and the best evil and everything in-between was somewhat imperfect. It felt too dualistic to me, whereas the nine-alignment system felt like anything but.

The game does assign alingments to NPCs and monsters, but they are simple descriptors of outlook and allegiance. They are not presented as tools of moral categorisation (unlike 9-point alignment).

I'm not sure I'd agree. Lawful good and good deities in 4e are just as (if not more) clearly the forces of righteousness in 4e as good deities were the forces of righteousness in prior editions. The primordials - all of whom are chaotic evil, incidentally (a few specific to FR aside) - were clearly the worst of the worst in 4e's cosmology, beings who were rightfully imprisoned by the gods and who still inspire fear among them. There's a very clear duality at work: the gods are better than the primordials and because the primordials are all chaotic evil it stands to reason the lawful good gods are the best.

The mechanics of alignment are largely removed, that's true, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has no moral or ethical significance within 4e's cosmology.

In a Great Wheel world, a character who turns on the Upper Planes is, by definition, doing something that is not good and probably is evil. In 4e, a character who turns on the gods of the Astral Sea is turning on some beings who have a history, and an outlook, and a likely role in the coming Dusk War; but nothing in the fiction purports to settle the question of whether siding with the gods would be a good or bad thing. This is left free for the players to decide as part of their play.

But not all the gods of the Great Wheel are good and not all of the gods of the Astral Sea are ambiguously good. Bahamut and Pelor in 4e are clearly good and turning on them would be similarly, by definition, "not good and probably evil." On the other hand, bringing the fight to Kord, god of storms, or Bane, god of war, is not out of the question for a good character. But the same is true for attacking gods of pure law, chaos, or evil in Great Wheel.

Your argument actually reminds me of the end act of Mask of the Betrayer, the first expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights 2. Without going into too much detail, one of the critical choices you face at the game's end is whether to lead an army against a lawful neutral god or not. The reasons for doing so are arguably just, but they also pit you against the forces of cosmological order and require you to ally with several evil forces. The situation is ambiguous in very much the same kind of way the above scenario you describe is... but it happens within the context of 3e assumptions about alignment (albeit within the World Tree of 3e FR rather than the Great Wheel).
 
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pemerton

Legend
Sometimes good people do evil things (which they don't recognize as evil, naturally) for good reasons. Anyway, if those Harmonium members DIDN'T value good, they wouldn't have bothered trying to convert people to Lawful Good.
The thing is, an evil thing done for an ostensibly good reason wasn't really done for a good reason at all. In other words, the Harmonium members think there is a good reason to forcibly brainwash people, but they are wrong that there is such a reason.

Similarly, the Harmonium members think that they value good, but in fact they don't - their actions show a disregard for good (mosty the dignity and respect aspects of it).

If, in fact, their actions was properly supported by a good reason, then it wouldn't be evil! Likewise, if it did in fact express a proper valuing of good, it wouldn't be evil.

The Harmonium wasn't aiming at an inherently evil goal
Again, this is about their beliefs. But not their actions. Their actions aimed at the non-voluntary conversion of people to a new value-set. That is inherently evil, in orthodox D&D terms, because disrespecting those people and their dignity.

if they had tried gentle persuasion instead of violence and coercive magic, presumably the layer wouldn't have moved
Sure. But similarly, if orcs tried to get their goodies by bargaining and begging for charitable donations, they wouldn't be evil. That doesn't show that killing and looting aren't inherently evil, just because they are aimed at a goal (self-enrichment) which might be permissibly pursued by other means.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'll admit that I don't fully grasp the internal logic some have provided that LG/E or CG/E are somehow less good or evil than NG/E - the idea that Good/Evilness are somehow tempered in concentration by Law and Chaos - and its implications for the planes. What 'universal law' actively prevents the existence of a system/object/subject that's one hundred percent good and one hundred percent law? Are the Law/Chaos and Good/Evil axises independent of each other or not? If they are independent, then L(100)/G(100) should be hypothetically possible. If not, then we move to new planar quandaries.

Do, therefore, Law/Chaos/Good/Evil exist as "meta-moral particles" that exist in a proportionally limited concentration within a given mass? The concentration of these "meta-moral particles" certainly do seem to cause interplanar shifts. (Plus, if they do exist as "particles" or real metaphysical forces, then that would certainly suggest an absolutist morality to the denial of naysayers.) So would a NG plane exist as one hundred percent good without any law/chaos particles or does it exist as a plane that's one hundred percent good and fifty percent law and fifty percent chaos? Wouldn't such a conservation of "meta-moral particles" within a given system suggest then the separate existence of hypothetical G(100) and N(L[25]-C[25])/G(50) planes? If it's possible for a plane to be devoid of L/C particles (or even statistically negligible degrees), then there could be a plane that is hypothetically G(75)/E(25) and E(75)/G(25), ignoring further complications of the presence or absence of the L/C dimensional axis. This also means that one could have a plane that is G(25)/E(25)/L(25)/C(25) that's fundamentally different from either a L(50)/C(50) plane or a G(50)/E(50) plane, as the foremost has the significant presence of alternative axis meta-moral particles absent from the latter two.

Furthermore, in a related matter if we follow from the above, it does not seem that Planescape effectively shows how ideology really effects meaningful change. Woah, let me explain based on what is likely my flawed understanding of the planes. Neither planar cessation nor planar creation seem to happen, only the shifting of a subset of an infinite plane between pre-existing infinite planes. Ideology does not seem to create or destroy, only move things around, at least when it comes to the planes themselves though this often does hold true for the rise and fall of deities. This phenomenon seems to be the result of the the aforementioned conservation of planes and "meta-moral particles" that seems to operate within the planar framework. What does it even mean, ideologically, that a portion of an infinite plane becomes part of another infinite plane? How does this add any ideological weight or weight loss, as the case may be, to an already infinite plane? The infinite nature of the planes seemingly makes this all feel kinda pointless. This is part of the reason why I referred to this phenomenon in Planescape as having all the excitement of balancing numbers on accounting software.
 
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I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I'm with Aldarc on this one - if forcible conversion turns a plane from LG to LN then the one who did it weren't LG types at all!

Also, I'm not sure how this is meant to fit with the "good is whatever we make of it" vibe coming through in other posts expaining PS. It seems to fit with the objective conception of good and evil that is part and parcel of 9-point alignment.

The reason that it is possible for planes to shift in Planescape is because of the perspective of the rest of the people in the multiverse, not because of any intrinsic property of the act itself. That perspective, as far as a character is concerned, could be wrong! That's what it means to have the planes be made of belief -- good and evil are defined by what the people who make the planes believe to be good and evil. That belief is subject to change, and it is also subject to re-assessment, based on the actions of those with strong convictions (like the PC's). That's part of what it means to be a PC powered by belief in PS, you have the power to change the beliefs of others, and thus the power to change what the multiverse is. The planes do not make things evil by their actions, other believing beings make things evil by believing that to be the case, and this is expressed by things like layers sliding from LG to LN.

This makes me repeat - what does best mean here? It can't mean "most good as in most free of evil", because both are free of evil. I can't see it as anything other than a type of aesthetic prefrence - "To me, order is more pleasing than chaos". That's not something that good people kill over, given they respect one another's dignity and hence differences of taste and inclination.

It can, because what "free of evil" means depends on what one views as part of evil, and the perspective of those in the various Good planes is that the other Good planes are not entirely free of that evil (the multiverse still contains evil, after all, and true good is triumphant). Planes dub themselves perfect, but what perfection is depends upon where one stands.

If order is a prerequisite for true good, then the Chaotic Good people are less good than they could be, as bad as Lawful Evil, just less hostile about their wrongness. If independence is a prerequisite for true good, then the Lawful Good people are less good than they could be, as bad as Chaotic Evil, just less hostile about their wrongness. "True good" in this case is a good that is better than what the multiverse currently has, as that good has not been strong enough to eliminate evil. "True goodness" doesn't struggle against evil, it simply removes it, turning the hearts of psychopaths and fiends to benevolence and compassion as they come to embrace the belief themselves.

This means, for instance, that Celestia isn't the most extreme LG possible (as it exists alongside all sorts of evil in the planes), that there is a higher LG that may be attained, a better multiverse possible for those who adhere to LG beliefs, one that might in fact be free of evil of all sorts (which doesn't mean free of problems, but it might mean free of fiends!).

Conversely, someone who starts hacking into Olympians on grounds that they're not free of evil in the right way has revealed him-/herself to be less than fully good - a bit like the Harmonium!

Again, what is good depends on what one views as good, so they've only revealed themselves to be less than fully good in the eyes of certain people. "Good" is subjective. And those views and perspectives can change, based on the actions of those with strong convictions.

That seems sensible enough. But I'm not sure how it fits with the Harmonium's activities being objectively judged as non-good (presumably evil?). That seems to be about using alignment in play for establishing and applying key features of the cosmology.

It's just using the perspectives of the NPC's in the setting. Those NPC's view the act as evil. They aren't necessarily correct.

It's the "Peter Pan Principle." If you believe and clap your hands, Tinkerbell lives, and if you don't, she just dies. What people believe in changes reality in PS. Before the PC's arrive, the planes are a certain way because everyone generally agrees that they are that way. Once the PC's come onto the scene, "everyone" might believe something else, thanks to their actions.

When a Detect Evil spell detects them, then; or when they die and go to the Abyss rather than Heaven; what are they meant to make of that?

As a PC, just that they have a lot of work to do.

Center of All. The Evil taint that shows up and the pull to the Abyss happen because of the perspectives of the infinite NPC's that make up the planes, not because of any objective truth. Objective moral and ethical position is impossible in an infinite moral and ethical space much as objective physical locations are impossible in an infinite physical space. If that fate is something that you want to avoid, you need to change those perspectives, to bring them closer to yours. You've been judged by your peers, by other people, by "society," but it's only the final state of things if you accept their belief as authoritative. If you think differently -- if you believe something else -- it is up to you to change that belief.

In-setting and in-character, it might lead you to a tension. You're in the Abyss, and you think you've been put there wrongly, so you want to perhaps go plead your case in the streets of Sigil, to influence planewalkers from all over, and spread the idea that independent compassion is a greater good than externalized compassion, knowing that if you are successful, you will become the divine being you know you are in your heart. But since you are some lowly form of dribbling demon, your ability to access a portal and go to Sigil and proclaim your apparent innocence is...limited. And to climb the power structure of the Abyss is going to take some apparent cruelty and malice, as that seems to be what grants power there. So do you try and make concessions to the CE place you find yourself in to climb the power structure and go to Sigil when you can free yourself from its bonds, hoping that the small cruelties you perpetuate don't change your inherent belief in compassion and goodness? Or do you perhaps find some traveler to the Abyss as some half-formed proto-demon and beg them to take you to Sigil so that you can plead for the wrongness of your case? And then when you get to Sigil, how do you convince an audience who sees a demon known for lies and tricks that you are authentic and honest about your beliefs? Do you find and recruit Eladrin to your cause?

This is a VERY PS-y character arc!

More commonly, just because PC's play mortals, that arc will play out before the death of the character, so that in their life, the character changes the perspective of the planes before death. They show up as Good on detection spells and fly away to some sort of heaven after death because the planes already generally conform to their personal outlook -- heck, perhaps they are "rewarded" with a noble death at level 20 against the evil "fallen" paladin who has decided that law and order is more important than compassion and has come to slay this heretic once and for all...and this death is what it takes to convince others that they really were a good person, and the paladin really was not, and why did we ever think that adherence to some code of nobility was some sort of claim to virtue anyway?

But they'll face a lot of the same struggles. Churches and paladins in the streets of Sigil will try and silence them and remove them or "re-educate" them. People will be disinclined to believe them (perhaps the PC is a tiefling and suffers from that stigma as well!). And the campaign will be made up of the things that the PC does to convince the multiverse that they're RIGHT.
 

Imaro

Legend
The only references to alignment in the BoVD GM-side mecanics I noticed were in the Lingering Evil terrian (penalises the actions of good characters) and in the Faceless Hate disease (turns the victim into an evil person). The latter is easily interpreted as a personality change - the disease makes you violent and hateful - while the former is up there with the power of the paladin paragon path Astral Weapon (PHB p 100) which has an effect that triggers on killing an evil or CE target. Namely, it is very easily ignored.

You do realize Detect Evil/Know Alignment are spells that can be removed just as easily right?



Likewise those few PC build elements that have alignment requirements.

Well "remove it" can work for any edition, see above... so what makes 4e different in this aspect?

I also don't see how being able to remove it makes default 4e alignment less objective...

I don't see how the presence of these features has any bearing on my claim that the cosmology operates independenty of alignment. (Or on my claim that alignment is presented as a tool of moral categorisation.)

Because these mechanical features in the game are just as exact in determining alignment as a know alignment/detect evil spell is, which in turn means in 4e alignment is an objectively determined part of the cosmology not subjective or non-existent... the fact that you can house rule it out doesn't change that
 

ThirdWizard

First Post
No. The fact that something is desirable doesn't mean that everyone desires it. It would arguably be desirable for all the warring parties in Syria and Iraq to lay down there arms, but very few of them desire to do so.

"Desirable" means "worthy of being desired", not "is desired".

But, objectively means that there is some kind of indisputable fact associated with a statement. Where's the proof that Good is better than Evil in D&D? I don't see it. So, what if I ask Mr. Lich von Puppykicker which is more objectively desirable, Good or Evil, and he says Evil. Why is Mr. Paladin deCuddles more of a reliable source? He's obviously just as biased on his thoughts as to Good vs. Evil as the lich. What makes one D&D character's opinion on which alignment is worth more "right" than another's?

Do you pass the same judgement on the Law/Chaos axis? Can you say "Law is objectively desirable"? If not, why? Because in D&D, there is no true difference between the G/E axis and the L/C axis.

If Olymus is about to verge into Limbo, that means that it is not as good as it might be. Which would mean that chaos and good aren't as compatible as (say) law and good. Which would be an interesting result, but not one that I think the canonical D&D cosmology contemplates.

Of course, at the same time parts of Mount Celestia are on the verge of falling into Mechanus. Does that mean that Law and Good aren't compatible? No, it just means that part of the plane is starting to change their ways. Maybe its due to external forces acting upon it. Maybe due to internal forces. Maybe both. At the same time parts of Mechanus are likely about to fall into Celestia, and parts of Limbo are about to fall into Arborea (Olympus).

Remember, it isn't ALL of Arborea falling into Limbo. It's a small town, or a small region. Or maybe a layer if things are going really really crazy (but that's the culmination of a campaign arc or full campaign there).

That's just how Planescape works. Everything is constantly shifting around, and PCs are thrust in the middle of things, making decisions that influence how things things turn out.

One game I've always wanted to play would be a game where Good is truly trying to triumph over Evil. The PCs would have the goal to move the 1st layer of Baator to Mechanus. It would play havoc with all kinds of evil machinations and be one of the largest blows ever done against Evil. However, halfway through, they find out that tanar'ri are at the same time about to manage to pull one of Arboea's layers into the Abyss. Now, they have to decide whether they should continue their plans and try to complete their pull of the layer of Baator, or if they should try to go save Arboea's layer. It would be an amazing decision point.


I think everyone posting in this thread, at this point, is familiar with and capable of running sophisticated games. My question is more narrow - how is a 9-point alignment + cosmology helping with this? How does is the question of "who's right and who's wrong?" opened up by using good and evil as defined scriptors for certain characters and their home bases?

Prima facie, at least, those descriptors answer the question before we even sit down to play.

Well, Planescape uses the 9-point alignment system really well in my view. I don't need it, but Planescape does. I played pretty vanilla LotR-esque games before I got the first Planescape boxed set. And, without it, I might still be playing LotR-like or "Greyhawking" the dungeon games that touch on none of the awesome ways to play that you and I agree on to make a good game. I guess what I mean to say is that I owe Planescape for all these ideas about how to craft a good game of D&D that you take advantage of. Without it, I wouldn't be running "sophisticated games" because I may never have been exposed to any of that.

...And here is the great divide. Here is the lack of contact between my (and I think Pemerton's) point of view and those of others on this thread.

My instinctive response is, "Of COURSE good is something objectively desirable! Otherwise it wouldn't BE good! It would just be a matter of taste."

I would say that, in D&D, the Good vs. Evil divide is a matter of taste insofar as there is no correct answer between the two, except for the belief of individuals on that count.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
ThirdWizard said:
I would say that, in D&D, the Good vs. Evil divide is a matter of taste insofar as there is no correct answer between the two, except for the belief of individuals on that count.

Indeed! In fact, in PS, it's pretty impossible to have a "correct" answer.

Center of All. No one -- not the gods, not the planewalkers, not the mortals whose beliefs make up the multiverse as it is today -- can see the whole story. There is no external entity to sit in judgement of the multiverse. There is no objective perspective, no belief that is "more correct." Celestia exists because people believe it does, and souls go there because that's what people believe happens to souls that act a particular way, and now people can go to that place and visit it. But if people were to stop believing in Celestia, and believe in, I dunno, an afterlife consisting entirely of a dead grey fog for everyone regardless of their behavior in life, then that would become the truth of the planes, and people could go and visit THAT place. PS takes as its starting point that people believe in this diversity of afterlives, and so this diversity of afterlives exists, but their existence is dependent on the beliefs of others. Change the belief, you change the things that exist. Something's existence on the planes is contingent on people believing in its existence. Including Law, Chaos, Good, and Evil (and the various places that are said to represent those ideas).

And evil, of course, has its own perspective. Evil in PS can be thought of as power (control, social status, wealth, dominance, influence), achievement (personal success, competence, ambition, recognition), and hedonism (pleasure, gratification, personal enjoyment) being of core importance to an individual. People in the Real World hold those beliefs. Hell, some of your co-workers and friends and family members probably hold those beliefs! At various times, maybe even YOU hold those beliefs! :) Those are things that intelligent people can pursue and work for. Evil has much to offer. Yes, the afterlife is harsh and unforgiving, but the Abyss isn't a place of objective punishment for being wrong about your moral choices, exactly, it's just a place where every creature, and the very landscape itself, is pursuing goals identical to your own. It is made up of people who think exactly like you, who believe the same thing you do: that there is no greater action than to delight yourself first and foremost, and no other lives or opinions or perspectives matter aside from your own.
 

The Shadow

Adventurer
The reason that it is possible for planes to shift in Planescape is because of the perspective of the rest of the people in the multiverse, not because of any intrinsic property of the act itself. That perspective, as far as a character is concerned, could be wrong! That's what it means to have the planes be made of belief -- good and evil are defined by what the people who make the planes believe to be good and evil. That belief is subject to change, and it is also subject to re-assessment, based on the actions of those with strong convictions (like the PC's). That's part of what it means to be a PC powered by belief in PS, you have the power to change the beliefs of others, and thus the power to change what the multiverse is. The planes do not make things evil by their actions, other believing beings make things evil by believing that to be the case, and this is expressed by things like layers sliding from LG to LN.

It's the "Peter Pan Principle." If you believe and clap your hands, Tinkerbell lives, and if you don't, she just dies. What people believe in changes reality in PS. Before the PC's arrive, the planes are a certain way because everyone generally agrees that they are that way. Once the PC's come onto the scene, "everyone" might believe something else, thanks to their actions.

And the campaign will be made up of the things that the PC does to convince the multiverse that they're RIGHT.

Good grief. Normally, when I hear about something from people who love it, I start to appreciate it more. I might not come to like it, but at least I start to see what people see in it.

But hearing more about Planescape from people who love it just increases my distaste. Okay, yes, I do see the drama inherent in shaping the multiverse to your belief. I can see that one could run a campaign on that basis. I just have less than zero interest in playing in such a campaign. Actually, that's an understatement. I experience a deep, utter loathing that is both intellectual and visceral for the very concept of such a campaign.

In the setup described here, there's no reason to believe in anything! Anything at all! It's just the arbitrary exercise of your will (shades of Nietzsche!). You choose something, and by your own sovereign ubermenschlichkeit force your vision on the world. What it is doesn't matter! Not in the least. Because,

Indeed! In fact, in PS, it's pretty impossible to have a "correct" answer.

It's just plain no way to run a multiverse. Even if you succeed in changing things, so what? It's all just a matter of personal preference anyway. There is a nihilism at the core of this setting that is apparently ineradicable, and I will never be reconciled to it.

I think there's not much use to my continuing to post on this thread. I wish everyone well in gaming what they enjoy.

EDIT: P.S. One more thing.

Evil has much to offer.

This one quote alone would make me refuse to touch the setting with a ten foot pole.

Evil has *nothing* to offer, despite all appearances. Evil appears glamorous, appears to offer what you want, but it in fact has nothing, it is empty at the core. The drama in the universe as I know it to be is the drama of seeking for that which is truly desirable amidst all the false desires held out to us.
 
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Imaro

Legend
In the setup described here, there's no reason to believe in anything! Anything at all! It's just the arbitrary exercise of your will (shades of Nietzsche!). You choose something, and by your own sovereign ubermenschlichkeit force your vision on the world. What it is doesn't matter! Not in the least.

Wait, say what... the fact that I have the power to enact my beliefs upon the cosmos... is a reason to choose not to believe in anything?? Now that sounds incoherent to me.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Good grief. Normally, when I hear about something from people who love it, I start to appreciate it more. I might not come to like it, but at least I start to see what people see in it.

But hearing more about Planescape from people who love it just increases my distaste. Okay, yes, I do see the drama inherent in shaping the multiverse to your belief. I can see that one could run a campaign on that basis. I just have less than zero interest in playing in such a campaign. Actually, that's an understatement. I experience a deep, utter loathing that is both intellectual and visceral for the very concept of such a campaign.

Hehe, that's a pretty extreme reaction! But I'm certainly not trying to sell you on it. Please, don't play stuff you're not going to like! :)

In the setup described here, there's no reason to believe in anything! Anything at all! It's just the arbitrary exercise of your will (shades of Nietzsche!). You choose something, and by your own sovereign ubermenschlichkeit force your vision on the world. What it is doesn't matter! Not in the least.

Yeah, kind of! "Excercising your will" is going to involve running around casting spells and sticking swords in things and visiting dead gods and infinite trees and having tea with demons and the like, but I don't think that's an inaccurate characterization. A PC can have any belief, and PS is set up so that such a belief has the power to change the multiverse if they apply it and act upon it and survive the challenges it will face.

It's just plain no way to run a multiverse. Even if you succeed in changing things, so what? It's all just a matter of personal preference anyway. There is a nihilism at the core of this setting that is apparently ineradicable, and I will never be reconciled to it.

Your ideas survive you, so if someone wants to change the multiverse after you've left your mark, they're going to need to be just as heroic or villainous as you were!

This one quote alone would make me refuse to touch the setting with a ten foot pole.

Evil has *nothing* to offer, despite all appearances. Evil appears glamorous, appears to offer what you want, but it in fact has nothing, it is empty at the core. The drama in the universe as I know it to be is the drama of seeking for that which is truly desirable amidst all the false desires held out to us.

That's certainly one fine way to play the game. Planescape is D&D with plenty of grey shades, though. And ACTUAL grey shades, not just "I'm dark and broody and anti-hero-ish" aesthetics! It's morals and ethics in a funhouse mirror.

Sounds like it's not for you, and that's fair.

And I don't think you should have to play a game in which it was assumed that PS was the game's default cosmology! :)
 

Nivenus

First Post
Sorry, I am a latecomer to this thread and what I have to say has probably been covered multiple times over 86 pages, but this topic is important enough to me to feel the need to respond anyway.

I think the best parts of all the different philosophies that gamers have on the planes could have been interconnected to make a majority of us happy. Some people seem to love the unique nature of the planar descriptions of their own setting and like to keep it unique. Others love the interconnected nature of Planescape (and Spelljammer). I can't see why these two major concepts couldn't be combined.

Maybe certain planets subscribe to the Great Wheel Cosmology (I'd go with FR and Greyhawk at least for these). They share gods and events in the planes like the blood war. This can help explain, for one, the seemingly infinite number of soul-origin critters in the planes like the tanar'ri. Could GH alone have provided so many souls for the Blood War alone?

But then, places like Eberron can have their own cosmology as well. I don't know that system well, but I remember reading up on their planes and it was cool as heck.

Why lose that? But here is the kicker, find some way to allow travel between cosmologies as well. If someone wants their character to head to Xyber (or whatever it is called) there should be a way to do so.

I have even used different cosmologies within the same world. As a Maztica fanatic (the Aztec setting from 2e), I have my own cosmology even though Maztica was on Toril. I HATED that Quetzalcoatl (called Qotal in Maztica) had a domain where he could stop by Bahamut's to borrow some sugar. There was just too much intermixing there for me.

Why can't you have the best of both worlds?

I agree wholeheartedly (and I believe several other people in the thread do as well)! No one should be forced to use a cosmology that you don't want to use and the rulebooks should support not only multiple cosmologies but the ability to craft your own as well. Individual campaign settings ought to be able to utilize their own individual cosmologies and DMs should be allowed to pick and choose what they want to use.

Fortunately, it seems that's largely Wizards' plan. I've already shared this quote before, but it bears reposting I think:

James Wyatt said:
I think there's a tremendous value in allowing DMs and world designers the freedom to design a cosmological system that suits the exact needs of a particular campaign. But this approach has its pitfalls as well.

Probably the biggest danger is in eroding the things that everyone knows about D&D—the D&D intellectual property, to put it in legal terms. Everyone knows that demons come from the Abyss, right? Well, except they come from the Twelve Hours of Night in the Pharaonic cosmology, and in Eberron they come from a couple of different planes. The Blood War is an important element of D&D, right? Except how does it make sense in Eberron, or in the 4th edition cosmology?

Those are relatively minor issues, all things considered. And the reality is that it's not actually very hard to reconcile even vastly different cosmologies. As I've mentioned before, the Great Wheel cosmology doesn't model an objectively verifiable truth. There isn't a being in the multiverse, except maybe an Overgod figure like Ao (and he's not talking), who can look down and see the planes in their arrangement as we look at a diagram in a book. Is the plane of Celestia sandwiched between Bytopia and Arcadia? Who can say? The only way to get from one to another is through a portal anyway, so for all anyone knows, that portal could be crossing a thin planar boundary, hopping to a different branch in a cosmic tree, or traversing incredible distances across an Astral Sea.

For that matter, is there actually a place called Celestia? A lot of lawful good deities seem to have realms with quite a bit in common—steep mountain slopes, archons all over the place, an air of beneficence to the place—but are they physically connected? Maybe. Maybe not.

For the purposes of your campaign, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you talk about Celestia or about the Seven Heavens or about the distinct divine realms of Green Fields, Dwarfhome, and the House of the Triad.

So while we're probably going to present the Great Wheel as a default, to establish some common ground as a key part of D&D lore, I plan to make sure we talk about other options as well. As long as you don't stray too far from the baseline, the rest of your game doesn't need to change much if at all—demons, devils, angels, shadow walk spells, elemental summoning, and even planar travel can all work normally, even if your cosmology is creatively different.

Consider also this passage from the 5th edition Player's Handbook's description of Sigil and the Outlands:

PHB (5e) said:
The Outlands is circular, like a great wheel—in fact, those who envision the Outer Planes as a wheel point to the Outlands as proof, calling it a microcosm of the planes. That argument might be circular, however, for it is possible that the arrangement of the Outlands inspired the idea of the Great Wheel in the first place.

Basically, it sounds like WotC's plan is to presume all official settings are part of a shared multiverse, but that within each setting the structure of that multiverse is going to vary as per the local beliefs. Celestia might be perceived as a single plane in Sigil but a series of distinct planes on Toril. Daanvi in Eberron corresponds in some way to the Great Wheel plane of Mechanus but it's not an exact match and may represent its own reality. The true arrangement of the planes, according to WotC, lies very much in the eye of the beholder.

My own personal view is that the structure of the planes isn't something that can be easily mapped to a two-dimensional or even three-dimensional representation. Aspects of the Great Wheel, World Tree, and World Axis may all be valid. It's possible the elemental planes simultaneously exist "closer" to the Prime and "below" it. The Outer Planes may in some respects be organized as a wheel while still floating freely in the Astral Plane/Sea. The seeming contradictions this implies are actually somewhat charming in my view: they exemplify how strange and unknowable the planes ultimately are.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'll admit that I don't fully grasp the internal logic some have provided that LG/E or CG/E are somehow less good or evil than NG/E - the idea that Good/Evilness are somehow tempered in concentration by Law and Chaos - and its implications for the planes. What 'universal law' actively prevents the existence of a system/object/subject that's one hundred percent good and one hundred percent law? Are the Law/Chaos and Good/Evil axises independent of each other or not? If they are independent, then L(100)/G(100) should be hypothetically possible. If not, then we move to new planar quandaries.
This is a good way of expressing my point about coherence in summary form.
 

Imaro

Legend
I'll admit that I don't fully grasp the internal logic some have provided that LG/E or CG/E are somehow less good or evil than NG/E - the idea that Good/Evilness are somehow tempered in concentration by Law and Chaos - and its implications for the planes. What 'universal law' actively prevents the existence of a system/object/subject that's one hundred percent good and one hundred percent law? Are the Law/Chaos and Good/Evil axises independent of each other or not? If they are independent, then L(100)/G(100) should be hypothetically possible. If not, then we move to new planar quandaries.

This is a good way of expressing my point about coherence in summary form.

Ok, let's look at what alignment actually is because Law/Good/Evil and Chaos all make up the alignment of the person in question... from 3.5 SRD

A creature’s general moral and personal attitudes are represented by its alignment... seems simple enough

So moral and personal attitudes are a finite quantity (let's say 100%... since you can't have more than 100% of something) expressed broadly in terms of alignment in the game... and if they are defined as totally (100%) good (and if not how can you be absolute good)... how can they also be even partially centered around or concerned with law as well? The only person who can (theoretically) achieve absolute good is a NG person... since the finite quantity of his moral and personal attitudes are completely centered around being good... not law, not chaos just good.

Stepping away from alignment for a moment and using another example it's like claiming your focus on math for your exam is absolute while studying for both a math and english test (even if you're studying more on one than the other) s... it's impossible to be absolutely focused on two different things. English and math are separate subjects but your focus can only be 100% upon one or the other...

EDIT: This also ties into Moorcockian alignment in that extremes of chaos or law make good (and I would argue also evil) impossible. 100% law or order is totally unchanging stagnation and 100% chaos is unknowable constant change.
 
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Nivenus

First Post
So moral and personal attitudes are a finite quantity (let's say 100%... since you can't have more than 100% of something) expressed broadly in terms of alignment in the game... and if they are defined as totally (100%) good (and if not how can you be absolute good)... how can they also be even partially centered around or concerned with law as well? The only person who can (theoretically) achieve absolute good is a NG person... since the finite quantity of his moral and personal attitudes are completely centered around being good... not law, not chaos just good.

That's exactly how I was going to explain it but you saved me the trouble ;) .

Basically, every individual only has the capacity to care so much about a given value set. If they're 100% dedicated to good/empathy/kindness they can't be simultaneously 100% dedicated to law/order/stability or chaos/liberty/change. They only have so much ability to be dedicated to one or the other. By prioritizing both, they necessarily value each less than if they were dedicated to one. The planes are the same way: they can only be suffused with so much ideological energy, be it from good, law, chaos, or evil. It's basically similar to how you can have be level 20 fighter or level 20 wizard or a level 10 fighter / level 10 wizard, but you can't be a level 20 fighter / level 20 wizard; you're necessarily sacrificing some of your fighting expertise or arcane power to dedicate yourself to both paths.

Most people, of course, aren't 100% dedicated to anything. A given individual neutral good character might be 45% good, 20% law, 15% evil, 15% chaos, and 5% order. Or they might be some other mix. Only outsiders are "pure" good, law, evil, or chaos (and of course, an archon is actually 50% law and 50% good, rather than 100% one or the other).

Of course, you might not want to quantify they kinds of things at all if you feel that debases any of the four concepts. But then, what's the point of asking the question?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Aldarc said:
I'll admit that I don't fully grasp the internal logic some have provided that LG/E or CG/E are somehow less good or evil than NG/E - the idea that Good/Evilness are somehow tempered in concentration by Law and Chaos - and its implications for the planes. What 'universal law' actively prevents the existence of a system/object/subject that's one hundred percent good and one hundred percent law? Are the Law/Chaos and Good/Evil axises independent of each other or not? If they are independent, then L(100)/G(100) should be hypothetically possible. If not, then we move to new planar quandaries.
This is a good way of expressing my point about coherence in summary form.

Thinking in terms of percentages kind of misses the point about subjectivity that I've been making.

If it is possible to be "100%" something, its limits must be known, as 100% is defined as going to the utmost limit of that thing, and it is impossible to go beyond that limit. One must have a boundary to meet.

But the planes are physically and morally and ethically infinite. Center of All. There are no absolute limits, only limits on a particular individual's experience.

It is not possible to be any percent good or lawful, because Good and Law are infinite, because what is meant by "Good" or "Law" is determined by what infinite numbers of people believe it to be. Even Primus can't be 100% Lawful, because there's no outer limits on the concept of Law, so to someone who, for instance, believes that compassion is a prerequisite for social order will not believe that Primus is as Lawful as it is possible to be in life. And someone who believes that there is no real such thing as Law believes Primus to be exactly as Lawful as the Slaad Lord of Entropy, just more deluded about it. And those characters have a say in the fabric of reality as well.

So why does Primus sit in Mechanus and ping on Detect Law spells? Because most people in the cosmos believe that that's how it works. Those folks who believe that compassion is a prerequisite for social order or who believe that there is no such thing as Law haven't managed to convince the multiverse that they're right when a typical PS campaign opens. The arc of a typical PS campaign follows characters who believe things like that as they come up against "most people," and fight for their beliefs.

It's not much different from the arc of a typical save-the-world D&D campaign, functionally: that game will follow the PC's as they change what was once considered inevitable, that the world is going to end at the hands of the BBEG. A PS game follows the PC's as they change what was once considered inevitable, like "Primus is Lawful."
 

pemerton

Legend
It's coherent because "good" in D&D terms means something very specific, as has been pointed out. And that specific value set may or may not be all that matters to a character.

<snip>

From the perspective of each of these other alignments, neutral good characters place an overly high value on certain virtues that are either incomplete (lawful good and chaotic good), insignificant (lawful neutral and chaotic neutral), or callow (evil).

<snip>

The entire point of having a perpendicular axis to good and evil is that law and chaos have equal value in the eyes of many inhabitants of the multiverse!

<snip>

good has a clear definition in the rules. But that definition leaves out several principles that many characters consider valuable.

<snip>

Only if you consider good to be inherently better than law and chaos, which isn't the way the nine-alignment system is designed; lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, true neutral characters are just as valid for play as lawful good, chaotic good, and neutral good characters are.
I guess this is a basic point of disagreement.

I think Gygax makes it clear that "good" denotes "contributes to human welfare", and that law and chaos are means to that end.

LN, CN and N are valid for play. So is evil (qv assassins). But they are not morally valid. Gygax makes it clear that to be neutral with respect to good and evil is to fail to prioritise human wellbeing (life, relative freedom and the reasonable expectation of happiness). The 3E/d20 system agrees (using the language of "respect" and "dignity" in lieu of the language of rights).

Where's the proof that Good is better than Evil in D&D? I don't see it.
I think that the rulebooks take it for granted that fostering human wellbeing, and treating others in a way that respects and honours their dignity as fellow-creatures, is a better form of life than treating others simply as ends to one's own purposes.

Actual arguments to this conclusion are available - and will be no less sound in a fantasy world than the real world - but my sense is that it would be a breach of board rules to run them!

there are some value systems where freedom has a higher premium than human life or the happiness of others.
Sure. They are flawed value systems (within the framework of D&D's 9-point alignment). Someone who supports freedom as a basis for human life and happiness is CG - s/he is committed to human wellbeing, and believes that social order is a threat to it. Someone who pursues his/her own freedom without regard to the welfare of others, except perhaps in hestitating to kill or destroy those who get in his/her way, is CN. By the lights of 9-point alignment, a morally flawed person.

I think it's entirely possible for a "broad definition" of good to include concepts that both chaotic good and lawful good characters value. Indeed such a broad definition seems otherwise useless.
Of course. My main point is that a CG person therefore has no basis for strife with a LG person - it's a dispute over taste and inclination.

My other point, to which this quote was a response, was that Gygax implicitly acknowledged that L/C and G/E aren't orthogonal, because he couldn't expound Good without reference to freedom. You can see the same thing in the d20 SRD:

"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others. . . .

Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties. . . .

"Law" implies honor, trustworthiness, obedience to authority, and reliability.​

These aren't orthogonal and independent. For instance, a concern for dignity implies a degree of truth-telling and trustworthiness. After all, lies and betrayal are one of the main ways of treating others as means rather than ends, and you don't have to be a full-blown Kantian to feel the force of this point.

***********************

You do realize Detect Evil/Know Alignment are spells that can be removed just as easily right?

<snip>

Well "remove it" can work for any edition, see above... so what makes 4e different in this aspect?
OK, if you think it's as easy to remove alignment from the Great Wheel and still have it make sense, as it is to remove alignment from 4e, then more strength to your arm!

***********************

The reason that it is possible for planes to shift in Planescape is because of the perspective of the rest of the people in the multiverse, not because of any intrinsic property of the act itself.

<snip>

what is good depends on what one views as good, so they've only revealed themselves to be less than fully good in the eyes of certain people. "Good" is subjective. And those views and perspectives can change, based on the actions of those with strong convictions.
Why, then, given their vast numbers, have the fiends of the world not succeeded in having the Lower Planes relabelled "good" and the Upper Planes relabelled "evil"?

I would say that, in D&D, the Good vs. Evil divide is a matter of taste insofar as there is no correct answer between the two, except for the belief of individuals on that count.
In the setup described here, there's no reason to believe in anything! Anything at all! It's just the arbitrary exercise of your will (shades of Nietzsche!). You choose something, and by your own sovereign ubermenschlichkeit force your vision on the world. What it is doesn't matter!
"Excercising your will" is going to involve running around casting spells and sticking swords in things and visiting dead gods and infinite trees and having tea with demons and the like, but I don't think that's an inaccurate characterization.
I agree with The Shadow that this seems a Nietzschean idea.

I probably differe from The Shadow in thinking that there are interesting, even plausible, elements to the Nietzchean idea (it sees development in a range of other modern philosophers: the existentialists; Foucault; Ayer and Russell; Simon Blackburn; etc). But it needs a lot of work - if value commitments are a mere matter of taste, then killing in pursuit of them seems outrageous - it would be killing others simpy to satisfy one's own desire, which in D&D terms is practically the definition of evil. So everyone woud be, in D&D terms, evil!

I don't think that D&D has the conceptual resources to easily articulate and make sense of a more sophisticated and plausible Nietzschean approach. And also, certain D&D character classes - especially paladins, monks and samurai - make no sense in the Nietzschean framework. It's no coincidence that fantasy authors whose outlook is closer to Nietzsche (eg REH, Moorcock) don't have paladins or monks in their fiction (in REH, for instance, there are no D&D-style priests, just more-or-less cynical magicians).

Planescape is D&D with plenty of grey shades, though. And ACTUAL grey shades, not just "I'm dark and broody and anti-hero-ish" aesthetics! It's morals and ethics in a funhouse mirror.
This language of "shades of grey" is a red-herring.

For a "shades of grey" political/espionage novel, I recommend Graham Greene's The Human Factor and The Quiet American. But Greene is not a Nietzschean - he's a Catholic existentialist. Here's a link to an actual play report from my own game, which shows what GMing influenced by Graham Greene might look like. The figher/cleric in that episode found himself in a situation in which he could not realise both honour and justice, and so had to choose. (He chose honour over justice.) That's "shades of grey", but has nothing to do with "good is what you believe it is" - the reason the choice matters, and is hard, is because the character (and the player in playing the character) feels the pull of both values as real and g

I think it's actually quite hard to articulate how the PS idea is shades of grey at all - if good is nothing but what I desire, where's the grey? What's the measure by which the greyness of my desires might be judged?

This relates back to my comments about wish-fulfillment some way upthread: if good is whatever one wishes, it's a challenge to move beyond wish-fulfillment. And I'm not sure that D&D has the resources to do so.
 

pemerton

Legend
Lawful good and good deities in 4e are just as (if not more) clearly the forces of righteousness in 4e as good deities were the forces of righteousness in prior editions. T

<snip>

The mechanics of alignment are largely removed, that's true, but that doesn't necessarily mean it has no moral or ethical significance within 4e's cosmology.

<snip>

Bahamut and Pelor in 4e are clearly good and turning on them would be similarly, by definition, "not good and probably evil."
I think you misunderstood my point.

You can delete the alignment line from all 4e monsters and NPCs and, except for a very few marginal elements that [MENTION=48965]Imaro[/MENTION] mentioned upthread, the game and the cosmology stand unchanged.

This is not true for the Great Wheel, which can't even be described without reference to alignment.

*************************

So moral and personal attitudes are a finite quantity (let's say 100%... since you can't have more than 100% of something) expressed broadly in terms of alignment in the game... and if they are defined as totally (100%) good (and if not how can you be absolute good)... how can they also be even partially centered around or concerned with law as well?
every individual only has the capacity to care so much about a given value set.
It's interesting to see the two of you embracing what [MENTION=5142]Aldarc[/MENTION] presented as a type of reductio ad absurdum!

The claim that each individual ony has the capacity to care so much about a given value set is an extremely doubtful proposition of moral psychology. For instance, I have two children. A work colleague of mine has four children. I doubt very much that she loves each of her children ony half as much as I love each of mine! The idea that human emotional and affective commitment is a finite quantity is a conjecture with little evidence to support it.

A further issue, when it comes to L/C and G/E, is that (at least in AD&D) law and chaos were presented as different means to the ends of good (or different ways of disregarding good, for evil characters). And if you are committed to goal X, and believe that action A is the only means to X, then you will be committed to A - and that commitment to A doesn't dilute your commitment to X, it affirms it!

If making sense of 9-point, 2-axis alignment requires abandoning common sense in the philosophy of action and moral psychology, that for me is yet another strike against it.
 

Hussar

Legend
I wasn't going to add any more here, BUT since you asked a question I know the answer to, then YES, Lawful Good types do sometimes try to forcibly convert NG and CG characters in Planescape (I'm not aware of any examples of NG or CG characters doing so.) Specifically, a Faction known as the Harmonium engaged in the kidnapping of NG and CG characters and took them to "retraining camps" on the third layer of Arcadia. However, this action resulted in that layer becoming LN, shifting away from Arcadia and becoming part of the Lawful Neutral plane of Mechanus. Also, a group based on Mt. Celestia is trying to poach land (and people) from the LG (N) plane of Bytopia. Hope that helps.

But that means that there actually are answers. If that act was good, it wouldn't have had that result. Why would a majority of people believe something to be not good and be so wrong as to force a plane into a new plane of existence? And, for the next bunch coming along, they aren't going to try the same thing because now they know that this isn't promoting good.


Ninevus said:
There's a few problems with this approach:

What's the divination spell supposed to show you... the consequences? If so it's actually kind of irrelevant; D&D alignment is primarily defined by means, rather than ends.


Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?356422-The-Multiverse-is-back/page87#ixzz3GG15gvHW

This is not true in D&D though. Alignment is virtually completely defined by ends (by which I take it you mean results). Killing isn't necessarily evil. It's who you kill (the end result) that matters. I can sit around and think evil thoughts all day long, but, unless I act on those acts, i will never be an evil character.

KM said:
Again, what is good depends on what one views as good, so they've only revealed themselves to be less than fully good in the eyes of certain people. "Good" is subjective. And those views and perspectives can change, based on the actions of those with strong convictions.


Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?356422-The-Multiverse-is-back/page87#ixzz3GG1VC0Rq

But, D&D certainly doesn't present alignment this way. Good is not subjective at all. This, right here, is my basic problem with using D&D for this. Alignment is not subjective at all. It is objective and presented as such. And given that good and evil are actually physical forces in the universe, I don't really see how they can be subjective.

Imaro said:
Wait, say what... the fact that I have the power to enact my beliefs upon the cosmos... is a reason to choose not to believe in anything?? Now that sounds incoherent to me.

Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?356422-The-Multiverse-is-back/page87#ixzz3GG2CJccw

Because your beliefs only matter insofar as you can convince others to believe the way you do. There is nothing to actually believe in. Someone who comes along and believes differently than you do has just as much chance (objectively) of being "right" as you do. It's pure nihilism. There's no good or evil, just opinion?

Ninevus said:
Basically, every individual only has the capacity to care so much about a given value set.

Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?356422-The-Multiverse-is-back/page88#ixzz3GG2taHK8

Morality as a zero sum game? I dunno about "absolute" focus, but I do know that it's possible to score perfectly on both a math test and a history test at the same time. If the two axis are independent, why does focus on one axis preclude focus on another?
 

Imaro

Legend
Thinking in terms of percentages kind of misses the point about subjectivity that I've been making.

I don't think it does... you still have a finite makeup of moral and personal attitudes.

If it is possible to be "100%" something, its limits must be known, as 100% is defined as going to the utmost limit of that thing, and it is impossible to go beyond that limit. One must have a boundary to meet.

No we are speaking to the limits of a person or plane to internalize and act within the limits of good/evil/law/chaos... not the actual cosmological forces themselves

But the planes are physically and morally and ethically infinite. Center of All. There are no absolute limits, only limits on a particular individual's experience.

I disagree... the planes as a whole have no limits... individual planes very much have limits on the make-up of the moral traits that they epitomize...

It is not possible to be any percent good or lawful, because Good and Law are infinite, because what is meant by "Good" or "Law" is determined by what infinite numbers of people believe it to be. Even Primus can't be 100% Lawful, because there's no outer limits on the concept of Law, so to someone who, for instance, believes that compassion is a prerequisite for social order will not believe that Primus is as Lawful as it is possible to be in life. And someone who believes that there is no real such thing as Law believes Primus to be exactly as Lawful as the Slaad Lord of Entropy, just more deluded about it. And those characters have a say in the fabric of reality as well.

But there is still a definition and accepted viewpoint that applies here and now... it might change but until it does the cosmological forces are defined by the pre-dominant belief...

I think you may need to re-read what exactly I was speaking to in the post you are replying to. We are speaking to the alignment of people, places and things...not the actual cosmological forces themselves. I also think this may be getting confusing because pemerton referred to a post that was commenting on the Great Wheel not Planescape specifically...
 

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