D&D 5E The Multiverse is back....

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
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"?

Arguably, this is what the yugoloths are up to. ;)

More practically, three reasons:

  1. Because they don't all agree on what it means to be "evil" or "good." They don't share a belief. ("An ordered society is essential for true evil!" / "No! One must be free to choose evil for oneself!")
  2. Because they agree that they are evil, and just see that as a valuable thing. ("If you must call it evil to enjoy oneself, then I suppose I am evil! But what does that matter? What does that change? Yes, I am evil. Your point is...?")
  3. Because their "vast hordes" don't outnumber the neutral and good people in the world who dub them "evil." Most people in D&D AFAIK are "neutral," and they get to add to their number all the hosts of the saints and angels who all condemn these actions as evil.

Probably other reasons, too, but those three in aggregate are certainly enough for me to accept the premise of fiends being evil.

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!

Evil only has this definition because that is what people think it is. Change the way people think, and slaughter your way to sainthood! ;)

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).

Depends upon what paladins and monks think of themselves, and what the general mass of the multiverse thinks about them, I suppose.

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?

I suppose we're quibbling over semantics on this point, but the idea of a moral grey area to me is a place where the morality is not clear-cut, where good and evil are not able to be told apart at a glance. That certainly includes a world where good and evil are capable of changing their definitions. If the only choice is between two clearly good things (honor or justice?), it's just a matter of martyrdom -- enduring suffering for a good result.
 
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Imaro

Legend
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.

Or she could lack the capacity to love and not love any of her children while you love yours equally... I mean there are people who are classified as lacking the ability to love and are labelled with psychopathy, that seems pretty finite... and I'll stop here because I may be treading close to board rules. Again this is a fantasy cosmology not a real-world philosophy simulator.

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!

Wait so LN and CN didn't exist in AD&D? If they did then how could chaos and law only be defined in terms of means towards good or evil?

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.

Well when you acually prove this maybe I'll reconsider my position...
 

Imaro

Legend
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?

No. there is good and there is evil (just not objective good and evil)... and you have the power in Planescape (feel like we need to specify when talking specifically about Planescape now) to shape what those things are and make those beliefs tangible... You can literally shape the cosmos into what you feel would be a better place and you're telling me that it doesn't matter what you believe? IMO, this is when it matters most... you can't blame anyone but yourself (collectively or individually) for what the world is around you... because you have the literal power to reshape and re-define the essence of the cosmological forces that make up creation. If this isn't the time to actually be care about what you actually believe in, not sure when it is...
 

Hussar

Legend
But there is actually nothing to believe in. I can believe X to be good. You can believe X to be evil. If you get enough belief power behind you, you're right, if I get enough, I'm right. But, at the end of the day, good and evil are just subjective labels.

Which doesn't make any sense based on D&D alignment, where good and evil are not subjective. To be fair, in 2e, when Planescape was created, they actually did make a stab at the idea of good and evil being subjective. Spells like Detect Evil actually took into account your viewpoint. But, it was, on the whole, incoherent and haphazardly applied. But, 2e was the only edition to actually even try to make evil and good subjective. That concept was largely abandoned in 3e forward and certainly never applied in 1e.

Again, I've got no real problem with Planescape on its own. I think in a different system, like say FATE or various other more hippy dippy story stick style games (which I really like), it would absolutely shine. Heck, isn't Exhaulted following a lot of the same basic tenets as Planescape without the alignment baggage?

I suppose you could just eject alignment entirely, but, then, once you do that, the Great Wheel stops making a lot of sense. Why three separate (and apparently hostile) good planes? Why not many or just one? After all, there are a multitude of beliefs on what constitutes "good", so, without the alignment framework, the Great Wheel comes off its axel. :D But, within the alignment framework, the premise of subjective alignment doesn't make any sense to me. Not within the context of D&D alignment anyway.

Either given a different alignment setup, or a game with no alignment set up at all and mechanics that actually deal with belief, i could probably get behind a Planescape game. Within the context of D&D? Not so much.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Hussar said:
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

Perhaps they are not this way in broader D&D. But the alignments ARE this way in PS, and are presented as such. They are physical forces as well -- because people believe them to be.

The Greeks believed that if you treated a guest poorly, the gods would punish you. That it was a horrible act. If that world functioned by the "belief makes reality" mantra and had alignments, this would mean that this was literally true, and is literally true only because people believed it to be the case. If someone in that world treated a guest poorly, a god would actually punish them, and this vile man who would not share his meal with his guests would be considered "chaotic evil." At some point in time, we stopped believing this to be true. Hospitality isn't quite as important now. So now, that person who doesn't share his meal with his guest might be, at most, kind of a jerk? But not "chaotic evil." Not worthy of divine punishment. If our world continued to function by the "belief makes reality" mantra and continued to have 9 alignments, and abandoned that moral code, they wouldn't really ascribe much of any sort of alignment to that action. Maybe a little Chaotic Neutral since it's a social faux pas? Kind of a stretch even there. So such a jerk would not be punished by the gods, and would not be dubbed "chaotic evil."

In PS, the story of that transformation plays out as a fantasy story. It might be the story of a man shamed by the gods and destined for an afterlife he thinks he does not deserve because of his actions, who believes the gods are being far to cruel here. That man confronts a society that doesn't agree with him, a group of gods who wish to condemn him, and a universe set up for his failure, and through adhering to his strong belief in "Your definition of evil is wrong!" transforms the planes. There are inhospitable hosts burning in the pits of hell that he saves from that fate. There are proud gods whose codes he upends. There are rude guests who now have no claim to divine sanction.

People believe evil to be a physical force, so it is, just like when people believe in gods, gods are created, and when people believe in a certain afterlife, that afterlife comes to be.

If the belief changes, so does the reality.

Imaro said:
you still have a finite makeup of moral and personal attitudes
...
individual planes very much have limits on the make-up of the moral traits that they epitomize

I think those limits only exist as much as a given person believes they do. The "here and now" in PS is a baseline world that you are expected to change. That might include the idea that peace and justice are "evil," or somehow undesirable, or whatever one cares to try and make true.

Hussar said:
But there is actually nothing to believe in. I can believe X to be good. You can believe X to be evil. If you get enough belief power behind you, you're right, if I get enough, I'm right. But, at the end of the day, good and evil are just subjective labels.

Which doesn't make any sense based on D&D alignment, where good and evil are not subjective. To be fair, in 2e, when Planescape was created, they actually did make a stab at the idea of good and evil being subjective. Spells like Detect Evil actually took into account your viewpoint. But, it was, on the whole, incoherent and haphazardly applied. But, 2e was the only edition to actually even try to make evil and good subjective. That concept was largely abandoned in 3e forward and certainly never applied in 1e.

One of the things PS is doing here is screwing with alignment. That's part of it's impetus to be "weird fantasy," and to give D&D stereotypes a kick in the nads. Alignment is designed as a tool for morally unambiguous cosmological conflict, and PS takes that framework and twists it so that it is morally ambiguous and about your personal philosophy. Believing alignments are objective is a hallmark of the Clueless, just another thing that "standard fantasy characters" don't realize the "truth" of (the truth that PS uses as part of its own unique take on what D&D is).

Hussar said:
I suppose you could just eject alignment entirely, but, then, once you do that, the Great Wheel stops making a lot of sense. Why three separate (and apparently hostile) good planes? Why not many or just one? After all, there are a multitude of beliefs on what constitutes "good", so, without the alignment framework, the Great Wheel comes off its axel. But, within the alignment framework, the premise of subjective alignment doesn't make any sense to me. Not within the context of D&D alignment anyway.

I mean, without alignment, those planes can't rightly be called good planes any more, can they? And you loose the interesting tweak, that expectation twist. Alignment serves a purpose in PS. I won't say it's necessary, but it's inclusion is likely deliberate, to take people used to typical D&D/Tolkeinesque fantasy and show them that Lawful Good doesn't always mean what you think it means. That's part of the Wow Factor there, part of why PS is a unique D&D setting. The Great Wheel fits in a similar boat for me: not exactly necessary, but used to good effect, as it shows visually how every alignment is on par and, in fact, related to all the others.

PS is a product of it's environment, and that environment is D&D. You could do a lot of PS-y stuff without that framework, but it's not necessary to ditch that framework to do PS. Quite the contrary, PS uses that framework to highlight and distinguish itself.

Hussar said:
Either given a different alignment setup, or a game with no alignment set up at all and mechanics that actually deal with belief, i could probably get behind a Planescape game. Within the context of D&D? Not so much.

Say that much louder, and I'm going to have to dust off an old campaign that never saw the light of day. ;)
 
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Nivenus

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

Whether or not Gygax believed this is so, he's not the sole authority on the nine-alignment system.

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).

Yeah, kind of. But lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, and neutral characters can take part in a good-aligned adventure (which is the default sort) with relatively little trouble and all three were fairly popular throughout 3rd edition (by WotC's own admission). Evil alignments are more difficult though, because they're innately opposed to good. But chaos-aligned and law-aligned character's aren't, so relatively few adjustments need to be made for them to participate.

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.

Yes, if you accept pure good/kindness/empathy as the best form of good. Which isn't a LG or CG person's perspective.

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.

Sure they do. They're likely to disagree over all sorts of things. Is is better to work within a corrupt system to change it for the better or to rebel against it? Is a thief's crime justified by their need or should the law be executed impartially, without regard to circumstance? Is "compelled" charity (like taxes to support the poor) a legitimate expression of good or is it a violation of individual liberty? People have gotten into fistfights over less.

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 @Imaro mentioned upthread, the game and the cosmology stand unchanged.

Not really. What does the Elemental Chaos represent if not chaos? And while I'll grant you the Astral Sea isn't pure law and order, it certainly leans that direction more than its predecessor Astral Plane does; most of the creatures inhabiting it (non-lawful gods aside) are either lawful good or have personalities and goals that read very similar to those written for lawful neutral creatures in prior editions (while having unaligned as their official alignment).

Again, the mechanical impact is lesser, but there's definitely a defined dualism at work.

It's interesting to see the two of you embracing what @Aldarc presented as a type of reductio ad absurdum!

I wouldn't say I embrace it per se; it's not my preferred way of thinking about alignment (and I did say one could see it as a debasement of all four axes). But if you're going to talk about things like "100% good" or "100 lawful" (as Aldarc did in his question) I think it's a sensible way of addressing the idea.

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.

Except there's some evidence people do have a limit to how much empathy they can show: it's known as Dunbar's number. The basic idea is that humans can only maintain so many meaningful, stable relationships before they ultimately have to choose between one or the other (not necessarily consciously). However the number's so large (usually considered to be somewhere between 100 and 200), that very few people (as in, all but a handful of polygamous men in recorded history) have enough children that whether they could extend their love to another is at all a practical issue.

Someone with more children doesn't necessarily love their children any less than someone with fewer children, but if the concept of Dunbar's number is correct, it does mean their children occupy a bigger portion of their total potential relationships.

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.

Actually it is true, at least according to some sources. Good ends do not justify evil means.

Book of Exalted Deeds said:
When do good ends justify evil means to achieve them? Is it morally acceptable, for example, to torture an evil captive in order to extract vital information that can prevent the deaths of thousands of innocents? Any good character shudders at the thought of committing torture, but the goal of preventing thousands of deaths is undeniably a virtuous one, and a neutral character might easily consider the use of torture in such a circumstance. With evil acts on a smaller scale, even the most virtuous characters can find themselves tempted to agree that a very good end justifies a mildly evil means. Is it acceptable to tell a small lie in order to prevent a minor catastrophe? A large catastrophe? A world-shattering catastrophe?

In the D&D universe, the fundamental answer is no, an evil act is an evil act no matter what good result it may achieve. A paladin who knowingly commits an evil act in pursuit of any end no matter how good still jeopardizes her paladinhood. Any exalted character risks losing exalted feats or other benefits of celestial favor if he commits any act of evil for any reason. Whether or not good ends can justify evil means, they certainly cannot make evil means any less evil.

There may be other sourcebooks that dispute this interpretation, but it's certainly not alien to D&D's alignment system.

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?

True and some individuals are skilled enough to get a doctorate in both mathematics and history. But could they also get a doctorate in medicine and astronomy? What about law? At some point you start running into a limit as to how much any one individual human can learn about and claim to be an expert in. Additionally, someone who is an expert in both mathematics and history may be more educated in either field than a layman but less so than a specialized expert, who devotes their time entirely to the study of the mathematics or history.

Again, I don't think you have to treat morality as a zero sum game if you don't want to; Kamikaze Midget's way of looking at alignment also works. But that's the way Aldarc asked the question and if you're going to operate with the assumption that you can be 100% good, I think it's fair to say that you can't be 100% good and 100% lawful or 100% chaotic.
 
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Hussar

Legend
So, Nivenus, that would mean that there isn't actually two axis wouldn't it? At least, not two independent axis. As you slide one way or the other up one axis, you have to slide towards the center on the other axis. Is that a fair way of describing things?

KM said:
I mean, without alignment, those planes can't rightly be called good planes any more, can they?

Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?356422-The-Multiverse-is-back/page89#ixzz3GGytnlNv

Really? Do you actually need alignment labels to decide that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (small g, not the alignment descriptor) and a plane of unending torment and pain is evil? But, the thing is, without the alignment framework, it doesn't make sense to have only three "good" planes and three "evil" planes (obviously subdivided after that). There could be an infinite number of either, each one fitting within the belief framework of those that go there.

If someone is 60% good, 40% evil, 60% chaotic and 40% lawful, where do they go when they die? How far along the axis would you have to be to go to your "proper" afterlife? And does worship have any place in that? I could certainly worship a LG god with those percentages - does that mean I go to the LG plane when I die?
 

Nivenus

First Post
So, Nivenus, that would mean that there isn't actually two axis wouldn't it? At least, not two independent axis. As you slide one way or the other up one axis, you have to slide towards the center on the other axis. Is that a fair way of describing things?

The way the Great Wheel cosmology typically renders things, where Elysium is "more good" than Celestia and Mechanus is "more lawful?" Yes, in a sense. It's more like a circle (which fits the wheel imagery), where along the perimeter (alignment extremes) you're always an equal distance from the center (true neutrality). If you think of good and evil as the y-axis (where positive coordinates good and negative coordinates evil) and law and chaos as the x-axis (law = negative, chaos = positive) and alignment as a circle rather than a square, than yes, LG's apex is going to be positioned lower than NG and further to the right than LN. And that is actually where Celestia lies on your typical map of the Great Wheel.

Really? Do you actually need alignment labels to decide that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (small g, not the alignment descriptor) and a plane of unending torment and pain is evil? But, the thing is, without the alignment framework, it doesn't make sense to have only three "good" planes and three "evil" planes (obviously subdivided after that). There could be an infinite number of either, each one fitting within the belief framework of those that go there.

I actually kind of agree with you (although there's actually a total of seven good-aligned Outer Planes in the Great Wheel cosmology). You don't need alignment to necessarily tell you that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (or at least appears to be). But alignment is a part of D&D and so the cosmology makes use of it.

But yeah, other settings needn't concern themselves with the Great Wheel's way of doing things. The World Tree of the Realms has nine celestial planes. Eberron only has a single good-aligned plane, Syrania. There's a lot of different possibilities to run with. The Great Wheel's just the default way of looking at things; it doesn't need to be the only one.

If someone is 60% good, 40% evil, 60% chaotic and 40% lawful, where do they go when they die? How far along the axis would you have to be to go to your "proper" afterlife? And does worship have any place in that? I could certainly worship a LG god with those percentages - does that mean I go to the LG plane when I die?

Part of this is setting-dependent. In the Realms, petitioners usually go to the plane of whatever deity they worshiped rather than whichever one corresponds to their alignment. So Moradin worshipers go to Dwarfhome, Lathander's followers go to the House of Nature, and those who worship Talos go to Fury's Heart (this is actually one place where I slightly prefer FR's default take on things, it makes more sense to me that a mortal's afterlife relates to their religion than anything else).

Well, that's a bit of a simplification actually: first they go to the Fugue Plane, where Kelemvor the god of the dead sorts them out into the Faithful, the False (those who betrayed their god's principles), and the Faithless. The Faithful go their god's plane; the False they are punished by Kelemvor for all eternity (to a degree dependent on their transgression); the Faithless are put into the Wall of the Faithless, their souls destined to slowly be consumed into nothingness.

However, for the Great Wheel, it'd probably be fair to say that whatever forces are dominant in a person are the ones that determine their destination. In your example of a 60% good, 40% evil, 60% chaotic, and 40% lawful person, who's mostly (but mildly good) and mostly (but mildly) chaotic, it seems likely they'd either end up in the Outlands (where neutral petitioners go) or Ysgard (where petitioners somewhere between chaotic good and chaotic neutral usually end up). Because they're both slightly good and slightly chaotic, the latter seems most likely to me.
 

The Shadow

Adventurer
I know I said I was leaving, but darnit! :)

pemerton said:
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

Yeah, it's quite safe to say we differ there.

(it sees development in a range of other modern philosophers: the existentialists; Foucault; Ayer and Russell; Simon Blackburn; etc).

Not a list designed to arouse my sympathy. ;)

If for Sartre Hell was other people, for me Hell is reading Sartre! :) And for my money, as a philosopher, Russell was a great mathematician. Your mileage no doubt varies.

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.

Brother, you just said a mouthful! I'm trying to imagine terms under which that *wouldn't* be evil, and am coming up blank.

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.

Except that's not what I said. It isn't the power that's the issue, it's the lack of meaning. KM explicitly said there was no right answer, that good and evil are purely according to one's point of view.

If the difference between good and evil is just a matter of taste, then the only reason to choose to change the multiverse is simply the brute fact that you do, in fact, choose it.

If there is an objective difference between good and evil, then there are actual stakes in the ability to enact your beliefs. You can make the multiverse better, or you can make it worse. But if there is no standard by which the multiverse's state can be judged, all you can do is make it how you like.

And ultimately, so what? Who cares? I for one am not so maniacal as to want to force everyone to share my taste in music or food; these things don't matter much, precisely because they are purely matters of taste in which people have legitimate differences. If morality is a similar sort of taste, why is it worth trying to get anyone to share it?

You could say that getting people to share my morality could benefit me personally by, say, making it less likely that I will get murdered. But not wanting to get murdered is itself a moral stance! The very WORD 'benefit' contains the idea of 'goodness' in it! In the moral vacuum we are considering, there's no reason to value life over death, except that we happen to prefer it.
 

Imaro

Legend
Except that's not what I said. It isn't the power that's the issue, it's the lack of meaning. KM explicitly said there was no right answer, that good and evil are purely according to one's point of view.

I guess this would be true if the only driving forces for a person were cosmological good and evil... but as I said earlier I find Planescape more in line with sword and sorcery and weird fantasy where the protagonsist concerns are rarely centered around such things... Elric, Conan, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser... their motivation is not primarily good or evil...

If the difference between good and evil is just a matter of taste, then the only reason to choose to change the multiverse is simply the brute fact that you do, in fact, choose it.

One could want to change aspects of the multiverse for a multitude of reasons beyond good and evil...

If there is an objective difference between good and evil, then there are actual stakes in the ability to enact your beliefs. You can make the multiverse better, or you can make it worse. But if there is no standard by which the multiverse's state can be judged, all you can do is make it how you like.

Again how are there not stakes since all it takes for something to matter to someone is for them to want it and for there to be conflict in getting it. Classic sword and sorcery has actual stakes but again is rarely if ever concerned about objective good and evil. I mean if you prefer the type of fantasy where good and evil are objectuvely defined then I'll be the first to admit that Planescape probably isn't a good fit for you.

And ultimately, so what? Who cares? I for one am not so maniacal as to want to force everyone to share my taste in music or food; these things don't matter much, precisely because they are purely matters of taste in which people have legitimate differences. If morality is a similar sort of taste, why is it worth trying to get anyone to share it?

It's about making it a truth in the cosmology... in the same way that if I want to be a ruler in the game I have to get people to accept my rule... or if I want to be rich I have to amass a fortune. I'm getting the impression you assume every one plays high fantasy games of D&D that must be concerned with good vs. evil... and that's just not true.

You could say that getting people to share my morality could benefit me personally by, say, making it less likely that I will get murdered. But not wanting to get murdered is itself a moral stance! The very WORD 'benefit' contains the idea of 'goodness' in it! In the moral vacuum we are considering, there's no reason to value life over death, except that we happen to prefer it.

And that in essence is what most sword and sorcery heroes are adventuring for, because there's something they prefer and they want it. Conan doesn't risk his life so that good can reign in Hyboria. Elric and Corum aren't good people who summon demons and lay waste to civilizations (and even gods) because they want to benefit all of mankind by making the world a more benevolent place and Fafhrd and Gray Mouser don't truck with strange beings, steal and adventure to promote some objective goodness across all of Nehwon... these heroes act because they desire something and acting is the way to get, take or enforce it... plain and simple. Again I said earlier these were the type of stories Planescape felt suited for IMO, not LotR... not the Hobbit.

A quick example of The difference is... Aragorn is a king and has magical power by divine right (basically he's born privileged, whic is another reasson I think I don't particularly like heroes in this vein) and thus he is and promotes "good"... Conan has power and becomes a king because it's what he desired and he took it, he shaped his reality... Elric destroys his people and their ancient civilization that once ruled all of the Young Kingdoms because they wronged him... Fafhrd and Gray mouser steal from the Thieve's Guild because they want money to have a good time... those are the type of heroes I prefer. I can understand those who don't like the aesthetic (and if so I don't think PS at least as I envisage is for you)but claiming there are no stakes in a world that doesn't put objective good and evil at the forefront is wrong.
 
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I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Really? Do you actually need alignment labels to decide that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (small g, not the alignment descriptor) and a plane of unending torment and pain is evil?

Again, depends on the perspective. Someone with the view that there are people who deserve eternal punishment as a form of cosmic justice would view all those torments as evidence of the cosmos's goodness. Someone who thought that peace and happiness is just laziness and idleness dressed up would see those worlds as foundationally corrupt. These are all valid perspectives in PS as it is, and abandoning alignment wouldn't disrupt those beliefs.

There are "nice" planes. "Pleasant" planes. Planes that look like they'd be comfortable. But you can't call that morally good any more than you can call a pleasant mountain pasture in this world morally good. It's just aesthetically pleasing. Which removes some of the power of tweaking alignments. In PS with alignments, you can see that moral Goodness is (currently) exemplified by these planes, and thus draw some parallels with your behavior, knowing that if you adhere to their (arbitrary) codes in life, you'll get paradise forever in death. Which means that if you view the place as an enabler of idleness and sloth, you have as your enemies people who know -- and can cast spells to confirm! -- that they're Good. They can try and say you're empirically wrong. Of course, they don't realize that you're a PS PC, and so will wind up changing the planes based on what you know to be good, upending their incorrect understanding.

But, the thing is, without the alignment framework, it doesn't make sense to have only three "good" planes and three "evil" planes (obviously subdivided after that). There could be an infinite number of either, each one fitting within the belief framework of those that go there.

Well, functionally, in any PS campaign, you have an arbitrary number of whatever planes you want. It's not a setting about map exploration, I'd wager very few campaigns hit every layer of every plane. A given game only uses a relevant subset for their own purposes (that subset that most challenges the PC's beliefs, really). The planes (and parts of planes) that any individual campaign sees are based in the needs of that campaign. Those different flavors of good and evil functionally exist like five different colors of chromatic dragon exist: so there's a variety in your worlds and antagonists. Not because it somehow makes "sense." What makes sense is up to the PC, after all! :) There is no inherently right or wrong numbers or maps of planes.

Without alignments, that doesn't really change. You could keep the great wheel. Even have "alignment theory" as a possible explanation for it. Or you can ditch it. Or you can keep alignments and ditch the great wheel since it was ever "only a model." Or whatever. PS isn't fundamentally a game about maps and good guys vs. bad guys. A Sensate who had never been to Pandemonium still wouldn't believe it exists, and in the map THEY draw, you don't have Pandemonium.

If someone is 60% good, 40% evil, 60% chaotic and 40% lawful, where do they go when they die? How far along the axis would you have to be to go to your "proper" afterlife? And does worship have any place in that? I could certainly worship a LG god with those percentages - does that mean I go to the LG plane when I die?

Without alignments, none of that matters. With alignments, none of that matters in play. In PS, it only matters where you believe you belong, and if you believe differently than others.
 

E

Elderbrain

Guest
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.

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.

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.

Right. I completely agree that the ends do not justify the means. I was only trying to indicate that even in a world where there are Commune spells, Detect Evil and the like, it is still possible for (initially) well-meaning people (or people who THINK they are well-meaning!) to err morally. For that matter, who's to say that a character couldn't dispute the results of a spell (i.e. "This spell says what I plan to do is evil, but it's for the greater good, so the spell must be wrong!") After all, other things are disputed in D&D canon by characters, for instance the divinity of the Powers. The Faction known as the Athar flatly denies that the gods are really gods. It admits their existence, sure, but insists they are merely very powerful beings and not true divinities. Likewise, I can see a Paladin refusing to accept that Elysium and Arborea are fully as Good as Mt. Celestia, regardless of what his spells and granted abilities indicate (of course, if his deity told him so, he might have to relent, but still...) Just because a rule in the game tells us that, say, Mt. Celestia is equal in goodness to Arborea, doesn't mean that characters in the game have to accept this as truth (of course, they may.)

In any case, some of those Harmonium members definitely STARTED OUT with Lawful Good alignments, so even if their actions caused them to change to Evil, I'd dispute the notion that doing Evil somehow "proves" that the characters in question were never Good to begin with. Evil is a slippery slope, and a body doesn't have to fall all the way down in one go... he can get there gradually. Or to put it another way, one Evil act doesn't necessarily instantly change a character from LG to LE, or even from LG to LN. It depends on the severity of the act. So it is not literally true that a Good character can never commit a Evil act and still remain Good, despite the fact that the act itself is Evil.
 
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pemerton

Legend
And that in essence is what most sword and sorcery heroes are adventuring for, because there's something they prefer and they want it.
Sure. Which is to say, by 9-point alignment standards they're either evil (per Gygax, "purpose is the determinant"; per d20SRD, they "have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient") or perhaps neutral, if they don't kill willy-nilly, but are prepared sacrifice the well-being of others to the pursuit of their own goals.

What S&S characters don't do is try to transform the cosmos such that their self-aggrandizement is acknowledge by others as morally desirable! The general tone of S&S is cynical, even nihilistic - it's not about moral wish-fulfillment, about convincing the cosmos that you were acting morally all along!

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Wait so LN and CN didn't exist in AD&D? If they did then how could chaos and law only be defined in terms of means towards good or evil?
Of course they exist. But they are (obviously) not good! LN characters make the moral error of favouring a means - organisation - over valuable ends - human wellbeing. But they are not actively malevolent as devils are. Mutatis mutandis for chaotic neutral.

lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, and neutral characters can take part in a good-aligned adventure (which is the default sort) with relatively little trouble
That's because their moral flaws are modest rather than serious (were they serious, the characters would be evil!).

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They're likely to disagree over all sorts of things. Is is better to work within a corrupt system to change it for the better or to rebel against it?
That look's to me like a disagreement about the efficacy of means, though, not a disagreement about vaue. Or, if the CG person thinks that the LG person who works with the system is participating in corruption, then the CG person is judging the LG person to not actually be good! Which in the real world makes perfect sense - anarchists and revoutionaries make those sorts of judgements about Fabians and "sell-outs" all the time - but seems to be precluded within the 9-point alignment system, which tells us that the LG person is good, not evil.

Because they don't all agree on what it means to be "evil" or "good." They don't share a belief. ("An ordered society is essential for true evil!" / "No! One must be free to choose evil for oneself!")
But the "good" people don't share a belief either: you, [MENTION=71756]Nivenus[/MENTION], and some others have just been arguing as much for mutiple pages.

The point is, there are more fiends - who think that there is nothing wrong with a life devoted to carnage and the destruction of others - than nice people - who think that lookin out for others is part of a worthwhile life - yet that majority opinion hasn't acquired the label of "good". I don't really understand why not.

Evil only has this definition because that is what people think it is. Change the way people think, and slaughter your way to sainthood!
My whole point is that the fiends, who are a majority, already think this. So why has the definition of "good" and "evil" not changed already?

Why do I have to get non-fiends to agree with me? Do the beliefs of the fiends somehow not count?

Depends upon what paladins and monks think of themselves, and what the general mass of the multiverse thinks about them, I suppose.
My point was that a paladin, as an archetype, has no place in a gameworld in which what counts as good is a function of mortal belief. Such a world has no place for notions of providence - no place for the notion that true good might be rekindled no matter how dark the situation - yet the idea of providence is utterly crucial to the paladin archeypte. (In LotR, for instance, which is proably the best-known fantasy story to express the relevant notion of providence, the numbers of orcs, Southrons etc who think that Sauron is on the right side is irrelevant to the moral value of Sauron's endeavours.)

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The Greeks believed that if you treated a guest poorly, the gods would punish you. That it was a horrible act. If that world functioned by the "belief makes reality" mantra and had alignments, this would mean that this was literally true, and is literally true only because people believed it to be the case.
The Greeks - well one of them, Plato - also presented the well-known argument in the Euthyphro, that the value is prior to belief, because otherwise belief and conviction would be arbitrary. If nothing has value but for being the object of belief and desire, then there is no reason to belief and desire one thing over another.

This is [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s point (at least as I read it). As I've said upthread, there are philosophical responses available to the argument of the Euthyphro, of which Nietzsche's is only one. But those responses have implications that are hard to deal with in a fantasy RPG context. And I'm certainly not seeing anyone on this thread actually deal with the Euthyphro issue - that is, I'm not seeing anyone expain why, within the "belief makes value" framework, choosing one thing rather than another, aligning with one faction rather than another, is not completely arbitrary.

Alignment is designed as a tool for morally unambiguous cosmological conflict, and PS takes that framework and twists it so that it is morally ambiguous and about your personal philosophy. Believing alignments are objective is a hallmark of the Clueless, just another thing that "standard fantasy characters" don't realize the "truth" of (the truth that PS uses as part of its own unique take on what D&D is).
My take-away from this is that Planescape is for someone who wants to run some sort of non-cartoon-morality campaign, but for whatever reason won't just jettison the system of mechanical alignment.

In PS with alignments, you can see that moral Goodness is (currently) exemplified by these planes, and thus draw some parallels with your behavior, knowing that if you adhere to their (arbitrary) codes in life, you'll get paradise forever in death
Alignment seems to be adding nothing to this. There is a place where people follow an (arbitrary) code, and if you comply with that code you will go there when you die. What does it add to say that, for now, that place is labelled "good"? What does this have to do with the word "good" as used in ordinary English, or even the word "good" as defined in AD&D and 3E materials (ie by reference to human rights/weal/dignity)?

I'm not seeing that the Planescape take on alignment is actually adding anything to the game. For instance, it's not introducing any "moral ambiguity" that can't already be achieved just by letting players make the choices for their PCs without the GM (or adventure author) telling them which choice is good and which evil.

I suppose we're quibbling over semantics on this point, but the idea of a moral grey area to me is a place where the morality is not clear-cut, where good and evil are not able to be told apart at a glance. That certainly includes a world where good and evil are capable of changing their definitions. If the only choice is between two clearly good things (honor or justice?), it's just a matter of martyrdom -- enduring suffering for a good result.
I don't understand your comment about martyrdom.

In the Quiet American, Fowler must choose between loyalty to his friend (Pyle), and stopping the carnage his friend will infict. There is also the mixed motive of jealousy in relation to Phuong. There is no ambiguity here that loyalty and stopping carnage are both good things, and jealousy a failing. But the right choice is not clear cut. And the notion of martyrdom has no work to do at all.

Likewise in the example of play that I posted, where the choice was between honour (keeping a promise made in one's name) and justice (ensuring that a villain receives the punishment she deserves). Both honour and justice are good things, but the right choice between them is not clear cut. And the notion of martyrdom has no work to do at all - in the exampe of play that I linked to, who do you think is being martyred?

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

What does the Elemental Chaos represent if not chaos?
I mean, without alignment, those planes can't rightly be called good planes any more, can they?
Really? Do you actually need alignment labels to decide that a paradise of peace and happiness is good (small g, not the alignment descriptor) and a plane of unending torment and pain is evil?
I'm with Hussar here!

The Elemental Chaos being a place of chaos has nothing to do with the D&D alignment system. The word "chaos" is bearing its ordinary English meaning. The Elemental Chaos is a place of roiling matter and energy, the raw material of creation. The notion combines tropes drawn from the D&D Elemental Planes and Limbo as described by Jeff Grubb, with tropes drawn from various mythological/religious sources.

It's not as if the words law, chaos, good and evil had no use in every day life, morals, theology etc before D&D appropriated them for its particular purposes!

I suppose you could just eject alignment entirely, but, then, once you do that, the Great Wheel stops making a lot of sense.
Right. The Great Wheel is a geographic expression of the alignment graph. It makes no sense without it! (For instance, without alignment there is no reason to favour the Great Wheel over the Astral Sea as a model of the heavens.)
 


Imaro

Legend
Sure. Which is to say, by 9-point alignment standards they're either evil (per Gygax, "purpose is the determinant"; per d20SRD, they "have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient") or perhaps neutral, if they don't kill willy-nilly, but are prepared sacrifice the well-being of others to the pursuit of their own goals.

Yes in REGULAR AD&D/D&D 3.x etc. they might be... of course one would have to heavily weigh all of their actions so a simplistic judgement like the one you present here (based on one characteristic isn't necessarily accurate) also could you clarify as to whether you are speaking to the Planescape setting or to the base alignments/cosmology/rules as found in default AD&D/D&D you seem to jump back and forth between them but they are not the same thing... and it's making this discussion with you hard to follow and parse.


What S&S characters don't do is try to transform the cosmos such that their self-aggrandizement is acknowledge by others as morally desirable! The general tone of S&S is cynical, even nihilistic - it's not about moral wish-fulfillment, about convincing the cosmos that you were acting morally all along!

Well certain incarnations of the Eternal Champion have certainly transformed the cosmos into their concept of what would be "good" (specifically Elric) so I definitely think that can be something a character could try in Planescape and still stay true to the genre... I also think trying to re-define good through convincing/changing the cosmos is certainly in the vein of weird fantasy (remember I said Planescape was a mix of the two genres not pure sword and sorcery)... so I'm not seeing the issue... In fact the only problem I see is you presenting a very specific type of change as "the" change all characters want to enact.

Emphasis Mine... When did this become what Planescape is about anyway? Trying to convince the cosmos I acted morally... is only one very narrow goal that you have presented as the end all and be all of every character in the setting and the particular method you're presenting to re-define an alignment is only one very narrow way of doing that as well... You do realize this is not THE goal in Planescape right?
 

Imaro

Legend
Of course they exist. But they are (obviously) not good! LN characters make the moral error of favouring a means - organisation - over valuable ends - human wellbeing. But they are not actively malevolent as devils are. Mutatis mutandis for chaotic neutral.

You realize this doesn't address my point at all... You claimed law and chaos in AD&D were only defined as means towards good and evil... which is wrong. They are defined independently of good and evil and all you're doing is stating that above, one can be LN and favor law over good or evil... I never claimed they were good, or evil but instead they were independent of it... and you seem to be backing me up here, so what is it are they independent or a means to good and evil?
 

Imaro

Legend
The point is, there are more fiends - who think that there is nothing wrong with a life devoted to carnage and the destruction of others - than nice people - who think that lookin out for others is part of a worthwhile life - yet that majority opinion hasn't acquired the label of "good". I don't really understand why not.

My whole point is that the fiends, who are a majority, already think this. So why has the definition of "good" and "evil" not changed already?

Why do I have to get non-fiends to agree with me? Do the beliefs of the fiends somehow not count?

Citation please... I am genuinely curious about where this is stated... I always thought the default was that humans were the most numerous race across the multiverse, but I readily admit I could be wrong.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
But the "good" people don't share a belief either: you, [MENTION=71756]Nivenus[/MENTION], and some others have just been arguing as much for mutiple pages.

The point is, there are more fiends - who think that there is nothing wrong with a life devoted to carnage and the destruction of others - than nice people - who think that lookin out for others is part of a worthwhile life - yet that majority opinion hasn't acquired the label of "good". I don't really understand why not.

The only thing you have to accept to understand this is that most believing beings (many fiends included!) have the belief that fiends are evil. If one were to take some sort of complete planar census, one would find that more believing beings believe that fiends are evil than believe that they are good. In my usual running of PS, the "What's so bad about evil?" perspective is especially prominent. "Call it evil if you like, I just think it's fun!", says the vrock in the middle of tearing apart an Outlands village. "Evil? I suppose so! Ah, well," says the hydroloth as she strokes the head of her mind-slave. "Yes. Evil. There is no other path to strength," says the erinyes as she takes aim with her bow.

That situation isn't permanent. If the PC's decide they want to change it, they might find the arguments of the fiends subtly changing. The amnizu lays down her whip, and raises an eyebrow. "Compassion? Friend, if life is suffering, then all compassion does is prolong that suffering, deceiving people, making them feel that life really isn't so bad. No. Better they know the truth, yes? Better they know the harsh reality than that they imagine that life can be anything but this torment. I torture people, yes, and I feel good about that, because I am reminding people of what the truth of life is. It is you delusional do-gooders who are truly the cruel, here."

It's not inherently less desirable to be called evil in PS than to be called good, so I don't see any reason why most of the uncountable numbers of fiends would have a real problem with that label. The Lawful ones might have a strict definition of what evil is that they then meet! The Chaotic ones would not object to anyone calling them anything! I don't accept the premise that more fiends believe they are good than believe that they are evil -- it's just a label in PS.

In aggregate with the rest of the reasons, I have no trouble accepting evil fiends as the current "starting point" for PS.

My whole point is that the fiends, who are a majority, already think this. So why has the definition of "good" and "evil" not changed already?

Why do I have to get non-fiends to agree with me? Do the beliefs of the fiends somehow not count?

I don't accept the premise that the fiends already all think this. There's no clear reason for them to believe that they have that label. There's no reason for most them to deny the label of "evil," and thus have spells and planes know that label. They count, they just have no real reason to believe that they should be all called "good." "Good" doesn't describe anything they see as valuable, worthy, and desirable.

I also don't accept the premise that the fiends outnumber all of the other creatures in creation. They might outnumber the forces of "good," but that's a long way from outnumbering all other creatures in existence. And the influence of the belief matters, too -- maybe it's just harder for folks to accept that torture is the path to truth than it is for them to accept that being fed and happy and smiling with their friends is a path to truth, so the idea of fiends being good has little influence outside of certain groups of fiends. Functionally, in play, these numbers are all "infinite" anyway.

My point was that a paladin, as an archetype, has no place in a gameworld in which what counts as good is a function of mortal belief. Such a world has no place for notions of providence - no place for the notion that true good might be rekindled no matter how dark the situation - yet the idea of providence is utterly crucial to the paladin archeypte. (In LotR, for instance, which is proably the best-known fantasy story to express the relevant notion of providence, the numbers of orcs, Southrons etc who think that Sauron is on the right side is irrelevant to the moral value of Sauron's endeavours.)

Whatever one believes to be good could certainly be rekindled no matter how dark the situation. If one believed that the code of the paladin created goodness, then no matter how dark the situation, that light could shine on that paladin. Heck, the idea that the paladin (and other paladins!) believe that to happen is nearly a guarantee that it will for the PC's. ;)

The Greeks - well one of them, Plato - also presented the well-known argument in the Euthyphro, that the value is prior to belief, because otherwise belief and conviction would be arbitrary. If nothing has value but for being the object of belief and desire, then there is no reason to belief and desire one thing over another.

This is [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION]'s point (at least as I read it). As I've said upthread, there are philosophical responses available to the argument of the Euthyphro, of which Nietzsche's is only one. But those responses have implications that are hard to deal with in a fantasy RPG context. And I'm certainly not seeing anyone on this thread actually deal with the Euthyphro issue - that is, I'm not seeing anyone expain why, within the "belief makes value" framework, choosing one thing rather than another, aligning with one faction rather than another, is not completely arbitrary.

I'm not here to debate Plato and Nietzsche. All I can say is that PS presents a setting in which personal belief makes truth, and reality is contingent on what other people believe to be reality. The point of bringing up the notion of Greek hospitality as Chaotic Evil and then changing to not really a thing that decides cosmic alignment was to demonstrate how belief even determines what alignment is. Belief that a thing is evil makes it so. Belief that a thing is not evil makes it so. In absence of a strong belief, other people define this for you. With a strong belief (which every PS player character should have!), you get to define that for others.

In fact, the idea of a strong belief being unique to the "protagonists" in the setting is worth harping on, as it is another reason that fiends might be considered evil (and just accept it as The Way Things Are) -- most fiends don't have any more strength of conviction than most turnip farmers, and have no greater capacity to question their lot in life than any other NPC. It's the PC's (and their antagonists) that shape the planes by having beliefs that become revolutionary. That fiends are evil could be thought of as the influence of a great idea whose original proponent is long gone from the planes, but whose echoes still persist. If a fiend wants to change the belief of the planes...well, that fiend makes a good PC or antagonist in PS! :)

My take-away from this is that Planescape is for someone who wants to run some sort of non-cartoon-morality campaign, but for whatever reason won't just jettison the system of mechanical alignment.

Alignment seems to be adding nothing to this. There is a place where people follow an (arbitrary) code, and if you comply with that code you will go there when you die. What does it add to say that, for now, that place is labelled "good"? What does this have to do with the word "good" as used in ordinary English, or even the word "good" as defined in AD&D and 3E materials (ie by reference to human rights/weal/dignity)?

Again, I don't think the alignment is definitional, but rather utilitarian. Planescape is for someone who wants to run D&D without cartoon morality, and it uses alignment to do this by showing how alignment isn't an objective truth, but rather a subjective belief. If you're coming from a typical FR or GH or DL D&D game, that's going to be an unexpected twist, and it will set you up to question other things that seem "permanent" (like, say, the map!). Planescape doesn't NEED to use alignment to do this, I feel (you can have a PS game without alignment, the most iconic PS game needn't use alignment to function, it just needs people to accept the malleability of everything), but it chooses do, and that choice is a rational one, with some benefits. And some costs -- one of the sticking points seems to be folks who aren't able to easily accept PS's re-definition of what alignment is! For me personally, I'd happily drop the alignments from a game with a player who was having trouble with them being in a setting of subjective opinion, but I certainly don't think it's a necessary prerequisite to making sense of the setting.

What it does is treat the D&D notion of "good" that prevails in the setting's starting point as something that the PC's can change if they disagree with it.

I don't understand your comment about martyrdom.

Just that choosing between two good things isn't introducing ambiguity about what's good and what's evil, it's just asking what good is more important. So you will have to make some sacrifice. So you are a martyr -- sacrificing something you think as good for something you think is a GREATER good (your choice is: what is the greater good?). That doesn't really match what I'd label as ambiguous morality. It's a different aesthetic.

Right. The Great Wheel is a geographic expression of the alignment graph. It makes no sense without it! (For instance, without alignment there is no reason to favour the Great Wheel over the Astral Sea as a model of the heavens.)

Since in PS, good and evil is a matter of opinion, even without alignment, the Great Wheel is still just what people think good and evil are, layed out in a map.
 
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