D&D General The Problem with Evil or what if we don't use alignments?

Magister Ludorum

Adventurer
I'm not in favor of removing it from the game now that it has no teeth or mechanics to back it up. Some folks like it and use it. I'm not in favor of removing things that do not affect me one way or another.

None of our games have players who engage in evil acts. It's never been an issue for us.
 

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Unless I was doing some sort of Matrix-style campaign, where the PCs start out breaking free of these entities and end up fighting them or their agents.
Every campaign is just a matrix style campaign.

Reality doesn't actually exist. Everyone just exists in the shared imagination of half a dozen nerds at a kitchen table, where actions are determined by the roll of a dice.

Everyone that exists other than the protagonists are actually hollow shells with no actual thoughts or feelings until control of them is assumed by one of those nerds at the table, who has God-like control and power.

There is no spoon.

I actually had a Hermit background PC with this as his 'Secret'.
 


JEB

Legend
Interesting list, thanks for sharing.

Assuming the 2024 revision removes alignment (which seems likely), going to be interesting to see how some of those change. For example, will artifacts that expect evil wielders be perfectly cool for pious paladins to use? Or will they now look for specific BIFT descriptors? Or will DMs just get to choose whether a PC is "evil" enough?
 

Interesting list, thanks for sharing.
Due to the presence of that list, IMG's I wouldnt be happy with @Crimson Longinus playing one of his theoretically 'LG' Heroes, who engages in the occasional bloodthirsty murder and bit of Reservoir Dogs torture from time to time 'for the greater good' and also gaining the benefit of a Unicorns lair, or being able to attune to a Talisman of Pure Good etc.

He could play such a PC (an evil monster with a righteous cause) but the PC would be evilly aligned (regardless of his or his PCs views on the topic). His spirit guardians would deal necrotic damage, and he could attune to a Talisman of Ultimate Evil for example.

I clearly explain to my Players (the obvious):

Good is acts of altruism, helping others, mercy, self sacrifice and compassion. It includes avoiding harming others, unless that harm is in self defense or the defense of others from an immediate threat, and is proportionate to the threat.

Evil is harming others, exploiting them for your own ends, and inflicting suffering on others. An evil person generally avoids mercy, altruism and compassion.

A person who is Neutral on thiis axis generally lacks the compassion to go out of his or her way to help others, but equally has sufficient convictions to generally avoid harming others. They just generally seek to get ahead in life, and live a good life without being mean to other people, or going out of their way to help them.

A Lawful person is someone who has a code of honor, and respects family, tradition and stability. They play by a set of rules, either their own, or societies. They tend to be predictable, disciplined, reactionary, organized and unrelenting.

A Chaotic person is someone who is independent, reckless, unpredictable and unconventional. The follow their own whims on the moment, tending to trust their own judgement over a code or set of rules or honor.

A person that is Neutral on this axis has some respect for laws and tradition but is flexible enough to act outside of this code when the situation calls for it. They're neither inflexible nor individualist.

Most people are Neutral on both axis.

Those are my definitions anyway.
 
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The shorthand version of the above:

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Zardnaar

Legend
This here is a perfect example of why Alignment is such a problem in D&D.

NOT killing the future raiders and murderers of good people simply because they are in their larval form would, by some, be considered an evil act itself. By showing mercy to creatures incapable of not being what they are, you are condemning some future innocent to their depredations -- all for a selfish, misguided reason on top of it. What is evil if not acting in a selfish way that causes harm to innocents?

Before anyone comes storming in with pitchforks and cries of "biological essentialism" I am not making any argument about whether it makes any sense or is okay to say "all orcs are inherently evil." But in the scenario where they are in fact inherently evil, it is not "good" to leave them to kill in the future. Moral absolutism is weird that way.

That's how I see it and in the context Gary was talking about.

If Orcs are always evil and will come for you.

Would also appt to things like gants wasps.

Now I'm not convinced Orcs always have to be evil so there's that as well.

If I was going to use a race that's always evil (outside of thing like helms of opposite alignment) you could make them spawn or vat grown so children don't come up.

Then there's things like illithids where other sentients are food and to reproduce they have to kill someone.
 

This here is a perfect example of why Alignment is such a problem in D&D.

NOT killing the future raiders and murderers of good people simply because they are in their larval form would, by some, be considered an evil act itself. By showing mercy to creatures incapable of not being what they are, you are condemning some future innocent to their depredations -- all for a selfish, misguided reason on top of it. What is evil if not acting in a selfish way that causes harm to innocents?

Before anyone comes storming in with pitchforks and cries of "biological essentialism" I am not making any argument about whether it makes any sense or is okay to say "all orcs are inherently evil." But in the scenario where they are in fact inherently evil, it is not "good" to leave them to kill in the future. Moral absolutism is weird that way.

But Orcs are not inherently evil. They are not so in 5E (and this has been made even clearer of late), were not so in 4E or 3E.

I'm not so sure about prior editions, but when I played 1 and 2E I always assumed Orcs could be good aligned (and had choice in the matter) as rare as that might be due to social reasons (they're raised in evil societies).

Heck, even Demons and Devils and Angels have choice in their alignment (as rare is it can be for them to change alignments).
 

Then there's things like illithids where other sentients are food and to reproduce they have to kill someone.
Also can be good aligned (and a canonical Good aligned Mind Flayer does exist somewhere, as does a Neutrally aligned one in the recent Icewind dale module):
Despite the myriad of inherent desires and inclinations that would prevent such a thing, (their dietary requirements if nothing else) it was possible for mind flayers to move away from evil. Most were simply incapable of true good, but on occasion, it was possible for an exceptional individual to change their ways to become morally neutral, and in extreme cases, good.[33] Some were known to question the necessity of dominating the weak and devouring brains.

It was possible, although extremely rare, for a mind flayer to restrict its feeding by only consuming the brains of sufficiently intelligent lifeforms. A few animals that demonstrated extraordinary intelligence, such as exceptional cats, dogs, or bears, for example, sometimes had the psychic quotient required to properly nourish a mind flayer.

Mind flayer | Forgotten Realms Wiki | Fandom

In addition, there is nothing stopping a Mindflayer from obtaining a ring of sustenance or similar magic that means it simply no longer needs to eat.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

Alignment is very useful.

The problem is... most people don't use it "correctly".

Most people I've had conversations with are ones that think your Alignment determines your Actions, and that when your Actions DO NOT coincide with your Alignment on your character sheet, the Alignment 'system' is some how broken.

Alignment is NOT static and your Actions determine your Alignment...not the other way around. I can't tell you how many times I've had a Player (or other DM) describe a character, NPC, monster, religious group, governmental system, culture, tradition, etc, and then say "Yeah. They're Lawful Neutral" (for example). When, in fact, they are actually describing Lawful Evil (again, for example). Just because a PERSON or a GROUP of people (religion, government, culture, etc) think that doing XYZ is "the right thing to do", doesn't mean that is the "right thing to do".

Alignment is NOT "based on a point of view". For example, killing intelligent, sentient, generally non-aggressive life is seen as Evil in the game. Period. It doesn't matter if some culture thinks "Capturing enemies, then sacrificing them to our god so that our god is happy and that enemy goes to our god to get reincarnated on our side" is a "good thing to do"...it's EVIL. Full stop.

Same with Good. "We are forcing you and your family to work the fields for the next 10 years because we had a famine and everyone needs to pitch in to plant and harvest all the food". No, that is NOT "Good"...at best it's Neutral, worst, Evil.

Bottom line: What you do determines your Alignment. HOWEVER... for a DM, having "CE" or "NG" written down on a character or monster sheet gives the DM a staring point for base-line personality motivations (just like having "Str 19", "GP's: 98,884", or "Assassin"). A PC's Alignment can and is very likely to change over time. It's why it's why I don't "enforce" any Alignment change penalties until the PC hit's level 4 in my games; the Player is getting used to the PC and the PC is being thrust into a 'new world of adventure'.... and being the sole survivor of a 7 person adventuring group, or saving an entire village from destruction tends to change one's outlook a bit. ;)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

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