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

log in or register to remove this ad

Killing in self defence or the defence of others is not evil, when no other option presents itself, the threat is imminent and the force used is proportionate.

This is why such killings are not sanctioned in any criminal code anywhere, ever, through time immemorial.

We don't call cops who are forced to shoot gangsters shooting at them (or others) evil. We do call cops who intentionally gun down unarmed criminals in their home who are posing noone any threat evil - and we imprison them for murder.

An adventurer that rides out to a living creatures home, where it presents no threat to anyone, and kills it for no other reason than existing, is evil.
This is not in accordance how you defined 'evil' earlier. You said that harming others for greater good is unambiguously evil. Also, what is harm, who is innocent and what is proportionate? Is it evil to restrict civil liberties of 'innocent' people (i.e. causing them harm) in order to protect the health of others? According to your earlier definition this would be evil. Also who decided these things? what if I disagree with the GM what is evil or chaotic and what is not? And how is this mess in any way useful instead of just being pointless and confusing?


What if the person believes in in some greater good for altruistic reasons, but thinks that achieving that good requires harming others?...
Theyre evil. Full stop.
Absolutes rarely capture the complexities of the real world, of different belief systems etc...

In 1983 I abandoned alignment as written, and replaced it with a relative system. Whenever alignment had a rule impact, I asked why. Usually, it was because a divine effect. In those instances, I asked whether the divine being that granted the power would consider something to be good or evil. Two clerics casting detect evil in the same situation might get different results. It worked really well.

As the editions lessened the impact of alignment, I dropped it entirely. When I told players I didn't use it, it almost always created concern, discussion and some degree of consternation. If I just didn't reference it, there was really no notice of it not being used.

When 5E came out, I started to have people state an alignment for their PCs again. However, it is just one of a score of things I ask them about. Flaws, traits, bonds, ideals, (back) stories, family, friends, goals, fears, etc... It is there to help them build their PCs and create a concept. It is just a starting point, but if a player said , "Chaotic Good" and then started to play "Neutral Evil" (IMHO), I would not bring it up, bat an eye, or care.

With these approaches, otuside of theoretical arguments, alignment has not been a problem for me in a looooooooooooooooooooooooooonh time.

No, I don't want to assign them any alignment. I want to understand their beliefs and motivations and assigning alignment is counterproductive for that.
No it is not counter productive.

I can assign an alignment to myself IRL (I'm chaotic neutral for what it's worth) but that doesn't mean I don't have beliefs and motivations as well.

Your position is a fallacy.


Im not understanding the religious distinction.

Why are people struggling to comprehend an evil cleric of a good church?

A LE inquisitor type of a Good religion etc?
A LE inquisitor of a good church could very well exist. It could be argued that person would not be granted clerical powers like spell casting. I would maintain that a Good cleric PC of a Good deity would have to basically adhere to being "good" - and not a jerk.

Then why did you contradict yourself?
I didn't.

Killing a person in self defence as a last resort in a proportionate manner is not the same thing as killing someone for the 'greater good.

If you don't believe me try running a 'yes i did it but it was for the greater good defence in a murder trial and see how far it gets you.


So adventurers killing monsters (i.e. harming others) to stop said monsters rampaging countryside (protecting the countryside being the greater good) are evil?
To stop as in "they're currently rampaging or in the process of getting ready to rampage"? That's at least neutral if not good.

To stop as in "they are not currently rampaging and don't seem to prepare for it anytime soon, but let's be safe"? That's most likely evil, maybe neutral (depending on past behaviour of the monsters)


This is an objectively false statement, as many people here have offered benefits that it gives them. To declare that it provides not a single benefit(and there are in fact multiple benefits) is flat out wrong.
People have historically thought a lot of harmful or useless things provided benefits when they in fact did not.

See also medicinal carbonated beverages, revitalizing uranium or a drop of arsenic in a ten thousand gallon jug.

No it is not counter productive.

I can assign an alignment to myself IRL (I'm chaotic neutral for what it's worth) but that doesn't mean I don't have beliefs and motivations as well.

Your position is a fallacy.
Considering that your own definition alignment instantly breaks apart at cursory examination of your own posts I feel rather confident about my assessment.

A LE inquisitor of a good church could very well exist. It could be argued that person would not be granted clerical powers like spell casting.
I dont see any reason why. Are Gods really that active?

He could be evil but he's still advancing the cause of the church.


I think there are some good examples of how you can have ideals that you believe are good, but implement those ideals in ways that are best reflected by an evil alignment.

For example, we just watched Invincible on Netflix
In the show Omni-Man, a superpowered alien from the planet Viltrumite comes across as a savior of mankind. In reality, he just wants to subjugate the planet because he believes Viltrumites are vastly superior in every way.

He wants to save humanity by conquering them and making them part of the Viltrumite Empire. To him using force and killing thousands is for the best because if they don't join the empire they'll be destroyed anyway.

It also shows that Omni-Man isn't one-dimensional, that people can be LE but still be complex.

P.S. I enjoyed the show, but it is quite graphic in it's depiction of violence and may not be suitable for everyone.


Honourable but Evil is LE.
Would Robert Duvall from Godfather be LE? He pays off government bureaucrats and obviously breaks the law. It could be argued though that he is personally very disciplined and loyal to his organization and therefore "lawful". But he also cheats on his wife and breaks many public laws. I don't think it's that simple. I could get on board with LE being in his statblock though.


Unlike every other alignment thread, there's an actual worthwhile and engaging subject in the OP and we're all doing our level best to ignore it to talk about the opposite of that.

An Advertisement