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


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The "Tiers in the Rain" speech in Blade Runner lays it's cards on the table. Starship Troopers never has an equivalent moment. If you can't read subtext it reads as the opposite. Lets go stamp on some slimy bugs!
The finale that has Neil Patrick Harris mind probing the 'brain' bug and it being terrified of everyone and everyone cheering is pretty much that moment.
 

I took it as mocking fascism/authoritarianism maybe military industrial complex.

It is. Verhoeven draws a direct comparison between the US military industrial complex, patriotism, and how it has inherent fascist undertones. But despite how unsubtle it is in its satire, it was still too subtle for a lot of people; the essence of satire in my opinion: to mock a thing so accurately that it can almost be taken as serious as the very thing it is mocking.

Satire can make people think, and reevaluate their own position. Maybe we shouldn't be cheering for these dumb soldiers in their nazi uniforms, eager to jump into a pointless meatgrinder? And maybe we shouldn't believe the propaganda fed to us throughout the movie? And if people can reach that conclusion, they may reflect upon the real world, and reconsider another Vietnam or Iraq.

While my own D&D campaigns are far from a satire, I do try to weave some historical facts into the setting to educate my players and make them reflect on our real world history. I confront them with the complex political structures and the corruption inherent to those systems of governance. I make them think about morality and good and evil in subtle ways.

I want to show my players that just because a paladin is "lawful good", does not mean he's a good guy. In some cases, it depends which side you are on. Given the fact that we see the action from the point of view of the players, they are the heroes of the story, and there for the good guys. But there are other characters who may believe they are doing the right thing and being lawful while doing so.

If a paladin believes the players are evil, and is following explicit instructions from his church to kill them, does that make him evil? I don't think it does.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
It is. Verhoeven draws a direct comparison between the US military industrial complex, patriotism, and how it has inherent fascist undertones. But despite how unsubtle it is in its satire, it was still too subtle for a lot of people; the essence of satire in my opinion: to mock a thing so accurately that it can almost be taken as serious as the very thing it is mocking.

Satire can make people think, and reevaluate their own position. Maybe we shouldn't be cheering for these dumb soldiers in their nazi uniforms, eager to jump into a pointless meatgrinder? And maybe we shouldn't believe the propaganda fed to us throughout the movie? And if people can reach that conclusion, they may reflect upon the real world, and reconsider another Vietnam or Iraq.

While my own D&D campaigns are far from a satire, I do try to weave some historical facts into the setting to educate my players and make them reflect on our real world history. I confront them with the complex political structures and the corruption inherent to those systems of governance. I make them think about morality and good and evil in subtle ways.

Only saw the the first 1-2 movies never really looked into it.

The humans don't come across as sympathetic it's been years since I've seen the movies though.
 

The humans don't come across as sympathetic it's been years since I've seen the movies though.

They don't to me either. And I think a strong argument can be made that the entire war on Klendathu is a false flag operation, where the humans are the invaders. Considering the entire movie is presented as a piece of propaganda, the meteor landing on Buenos Aires halfway through the movie, may be a lie as well.

A good friend of mine is a big Warhammer fan. So when he saw the movie for the first time, he thought it was great, and didn't question it at all. He didn't recognize any of the satire, because he viewed it through a different lense; that of a Warhammer fanboy seeing soldiers fight epic battles with giant bugs. And sure, the movie can also be enjoyed at that base level. There is nothing wrong with that.
 

While my own D&D campaigns are far from a satire, I do try to weave some historical facts into the setting to educate my players and make them reflect on our real world history. I confront them with the complex political structures and the corruption inherent to those systems of governance. I make them think about morality and good and evil in subtle ways.

I want to show my players that just because a paladin is "lawful good", does not mean he's a good guy. In some cases, it depends which side you are on. Given the fact that we see the action from the point of view of the players, they are the heroes of the story, and there for the good guys. But there are other characters who may believe they are doing the right thing and being lawful while doing so.

If a paladin believes the players are evil, and is following explicit instructions from his church to kill them, does that make him evil? I don't think it does.
Yes, absolutely. And I feel that moral absolutism of the alignment is counterproductive for this sort of exploration.
 

Yes, absolutely. And I feel that moral absolutism of the alignment is counterproductive for this sort of exploration.

Why? Surely this is a fallacy.

There would be nothing wrong with you playing a PC in my games (in which there is objective good and evil, as already defined) that engages in murder, torture and worse for a 'greater good' and who genuinely thinks he is good.

Just don't expect to be using a Talisman of Pure Good, or to be dealing radiant damage with your Spirit Guardians.

Just because the DM (and the game world) has a different view of your PCs actions and alignment than the Character themselves would do, doesnt mean you cant explore those nuances.

Hypothetical

You're playing a PC who is a genocidal monster, but he only does it for some noble purpose (as all genocides are) such as 'annihilating an enemy that poses an existential threat to your homeland' like a local nation of Orcs who constantly raid and are in thrall to dark gods.

Your PC is also an honorable man, who respects family and tradition. He is a loving father and husband, but a coldly merciless monster to the Orcs, whom he tortures, crucifies, and slaughters down to the women and the children whom he tosses on pyres while alive.

You have LG written on your sheet, and your PC genuinely thinks he is good.

Your DM however secretly notes you are (in fact) LE due to your actions (in so far as it's relevant to any game effects, or what afterlife you wind up in).

How does this affect your exploration of this character in any negative way?
 

Why? Surely this is a fallacy.
Stop using words if you don't know what they mean.

There would be nothing wrong with you playing a PC in my games (in which there is objective good and evil, as already defined) that engages in murder, torture and worse for a 'greater good' and who genuinely thinks he is good.

Just don't expect to be using a Talisman of Pure Good, or to be dealing radiant damage with your Spirit Guardians.

Just because the DM (and the game world) has a different view of your PCs actions and alignment than the Character themselves would do, doesnt mean you cant explore those nuances.

Hypothetical

You're playing a PC who is a genocidal monster, but he only does it for some noble purpose (as all genocides are) such as 'annihilating an enemy that poses an existential threat to your homeland' like a local nation of Orcs who constantly raid and are in thrall to dark gods.

Your PC is also an honorable man, who respects family and tradition. He is a loving father and husband, but a coldly merciless monster to the Orcs, whom he tortures, crucifies, and slaughters down to the women and the children whom he tosses on pyres while alive.

You have LG written on your sheet, and your PC genuinely thinks he is good.

Your DM however secretly notes you are (in fact) LE due to your actions (in so far as it's relevant to any game effects, or what afterlife you wind up in).

How does this affect your exploration of this character in any negative way?
Now I don't know why you think I would want to play a genocidal torturer, I wouldn't.

But ways to objectively verifying alignment in game are a massive problem. I am glad that they're mostly gone in 5e, but as you note, there are still some. I really hope all of them are removed in the next edition, even if alignment in itself would stay. Whether someone is 'good' or 'evil' should be an opinion, not an objective fact. Also, obviously you as a GM are not interested in exploring such moral complexities, as you're comfortable just instantly putting everyone in neat objectively 'good' or 'evil' boxes.
 

Also, obviously you as a GM are not interested in exploring such moral complexities, as you're comfortable just instantly putting everyone in neat objectively 'good' or 'evil' boxes.
How on earth am I not interested in exploring moral complexities in the above hypothetical?

I'm literally letting you play a morally complex character all you want, exploring it in however you want to explore it.

I'm just ruling that Gods opinion of your actions matters (and in this game world morality is a cosmic force that is relevant to the Gods and the Outer planes, who literally exist corresponding to alignments and morality), and when that character dies, he goes to the Nine Hells.

Alignment doesn't stop you exploring your character however you want to explore it. There is no penalty for changing alignment.

Again, how are you stopped from exploring the above PC?
 

How on earth am I not interested in exploring moral complexities in the above hypothetical?

I'm literally letting you play a morally complex character all you want, exploring it in however you want to explore it.

I'm just ruling that Gods opinion of your actions matters (and in this game world morality is a cosmic force that is relevant to the Gods and the Outer planes, who literally exist corresponding to alignments and morality), and when that character dies, he goes to the Nine Hells.

Alignment doesn't stop you exploring your character however you want to explore it. There is no penalty for changing alignment.

Again, how are you stopped from exploring the above PC?
You just instantly decide that the person is evil and that's it. Sure, I can play a character agonising over whether they're a good man, but that is a question that in your wold has an objective answer, and can be verified by putting on 'a hat of pure good' or some such.

Oh, and I find idea of GM using gods to force their morals on the players distasteful.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
I personally don't like morally judging my friends characters or having them judge mine in the thing we're supposed to be doing for fun.

People like to point to murder and torture when talking about how their moral objectivism is supreme and how alignment 'really' works, but morality is more than just the extremes. Lying, theft, mind control, or causing disproportionate harm (literally any fire spell for example) are all also issues that are going to be harshly judged in the service of determining alignment and those are the places where the arguments start and people start talking about the DM getting to decide what's right and wrong for all the other people at the table.
 

Oofta

Legend
I personally don't like morally judging my friends characters or having them judge mine in the thing we're supposed to be doing for fun.

People like to point to murder and torture when talking about how their moral objectivism is supreme and how alignment 'really' works, but morality is more than just the extremes. Lying, theft, mind control, or causing disproportionate harm (literally any fire spell for example) are all also issues that are going to be harshly judged in the service of determining alignment and those are the places where the arguments start and people start talking about the DM getting to decide what's right and wrong for all the other people at the table.

All I can say is that I disagree. I have a no evil policy at my table because there are simply things I don't want at the game table ever again. I've played in games where people went into detail about how they slowly murdered someone, how they enjoyed the blood and gore of battle. I quit playing with that individual after that (I think he was just tired of playing D&D altogether but wasn't mature enough to just say so).

I don't get into a lot of hand-wringing deep philosophical angst over what evil is and it's never been an issue. I just tell people I think torture is evil for example and honestly I don't care if some people think it can be justified. It's a judgement call and a ruling, just like all the other judgement calls and rulings I've ever had to make. It also has to be fairly extreme before I'll let people know it's not acceptable. Saying that using any fire spell is evil is just ... odd. Being burned is worse than being bludgeoned or chopped into pieces is worse somehow? But if I did make that ruling I'd let people know ahead of time.

I'm not judging whether a player is evil, I'm letting people know what behavior I'll accept for PCs. There's a huge difference. I think it's been an issue maybe one time with a player who decided to move on. I'm okay with that because I don't need, nor do I want to be the DM for everyone.
 


Oofta

Legend
In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?
They have vague traits, ideals, bonds and flaws that tell you what they do but not why and often give you little or nothing to go on outside of those narrowly defined sentences. So you have to read a couple of paragraphs of lore and try to figure it out for yourself. Because heaven forbid we use 2 letters to give a general moral compass as a default when we can have paragraphs of text that pigeon holes them. I guess.
 

In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?
If you can't describe that difference without the alignment, then there was no difference in the first place. Demons and devils being a different things is one of those D&D weirdnesses that do not appear in mythology and other fictions, and I've never heard anyone to care about yugoloths.
 

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