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

In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?
None. That is the beauty of it. They are all infernal being. Ho, flavor text will give you a hint on how to play them but beyond that.... you're on your own. And often, the flavor text will be quite extensive and might be more than a page. Our two letters say way much and do give us a quick glance on how to play a creature. It is why the MM can have so many diverse monsters. Alignments remove a lot of texts that are absolutely necessary for systems without alignments. This in turn saves a lot of space that allows for more monsters/foes to be inserted in the book.

This aspect is often overseen or handwaved by those who do not like alignment. It saves a lot of text.
 

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Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?

Same as now. The alignment doesn't really tell you much about their organization and actions, they're both "E" and the L/C distinction doesn't tell you all that much. That devils make contracts and honor them isn't true of all "L" creatures, and there's nothing that prevents a "C" creature from making and honoring-but-twisting contracts. Fey are generally chaotic or neutral but are known for making strange deals in both D&D and tradition, while Demons are also known for making deals outside of D&D. Do green and blue dragons make and honor contracts but red and white never do, and are green and blue dragons typically in a society where they take orders? Since L/C should give an indication of how they're organized, which is it that generally operate in a mixed group under the command of the strongest one present, is that devils or demons?
 

Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
None. That is the beauty of it. They are all infernal being. Ho, flavor text will give you a hint on how to play them but beyond that.... you're on your own. And often, the flavor text will be quite extensive and might be more than a page. Our two letters say way much and do give us a quick glance on how to play a creature.

How do you play a devil and demon differently, and how does the "L" or "C" factor into that? All of the differences I can think of are spelled out in other text (including text from other editions and other forms of the game, like CRPGs), not just from the two-letter code.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
In a game without alignments, what's the difference between a devil, a demon and a yugoloth?
Actual behavior and description? Devils are deal makers trying to get souls to fill up the boss's army. Demons are marauders; th ejocks to the diabolic nerds. Yugoloths are... that third thing from Planescape that exist to fill a slot for Neutral Hell, so I neither know nor care about them, but they're like schemers or deal makers something that hags do better.

They're organizations. What's the difference between Apple and Microsoft? Do we need to know the ethics and morals of them to know there's a difference? Is it even helpful?
 

In combat demons will be less inclined on tactics and will rely on brute strength/power. Devils will use tactics and will try to help each other reach their common goals. Demons will be the me myself and I type with no concern for their brother while the devils will switch places on the battlefield to allow for a wounded devil to get away from harm or to better infiltrate enemy lines.

Both might betray their "leader" but a demon will do so at the first sign of weakness, even if in battle. Devils will do it but only when the battle appears to be won and a gain can be obtain. Demons will do it because the occasion is there, be it logical or not to do it. Two letters were enough.
 

I personally went from not understanding why demons and devils were different things when I first started playing and running D&D to the Blood War and the stark difference between devils and demons being one of my absolute favorite aspects of D&D lore.

The way I run them, devils are far less likely to fight mortals than demons are. Devils don't want to kill you; they want you on their side and to believe that their way of thinking is how all existence should be based upon (and they also want the credit to get themselves closer to promotion). Battles against enemies other than demons is a fail state; it's a failure to recruit more mortals to the cause of the Hells. Better to prove the necessity of what the devils are doing to at least start mortals on the path or thinking that the fiends are actually just misunderstood.

Devils also do the dirty work of fighting the hordes of the Abyss in the Blood War so that the celestials don't have to. If people weren't selling their souls and becoming devils celestials would have to expend all their efforts fighting demons and risk being corrupted themselves. As a result of this, devils are also less likely to be impulsively cruel; every devil in the Hells is ultimately the property of Asmodeus, and it would be a transgression to waste his finite resources. Cruelty is built into the system of the Hells itself rather than something individuals do to each other.

In short, Chaotic Evil is senseless evil, and Lawful Evil is supposedly "necessary" evil. The devils are the primary force preventing the multiverse from the onslaught of the Abyss, and even the celestials know it. If there's another way to handle the situation no one has figured it out. Asmodeus may proudly consider himself the multiverse's greatest hero for performing this thankless task, self-assured that the vitriol directed at him comes from ignorant fools who would perish under the demonic onslaught if he decided to no longer wage the Blood War.

On a less cosmic scale, Lawful Evil could be the alignment of people who believe that by maintaining order and protecting against destabilizing influences they are serving the "greater good". They are the serious men making hard choices about who lives and dies, whose freedoms to suppress, who is an unnecessary burden on society, etc.
 
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Oofta

Legend
Actual behavior and description? Devils are deal makers trying to get souls to fill up the boss's army. Demons are marauders; th ejocks to the diabolic nerds. Yugoloths are... that third thing from Planescape that exist to fill a slot for Neutral Hell, so I neither know nor care about them, but they're like schemers or deal makers something that hags do better.

They're organizations. What's the difference between Apple and Microsoft? Do we need to know the ethics and morals of them to know there's a difference? Is it even helpful?
How would you describe the difference between The Godfather mafioso type and The Joker?

Both are evil but one will tell you it's nothing personal, just business the other will just kill you creatively while cackling madly.

It's not a hard concept to grasp even if you don't personally like it.
 

How would you describe the difference between The Godfather mafioso type and The Joker?

Both are evil but one will tell you it's nothing personal, just business the other will just kill you creatively while cackling madly.

It's not a hard concept to grasp even if you don't personally like it.
And not one that needs alignment to describe it.
 



No, usually it will be buried in paragraphs of text that you have to read carefully and then hope you remember it all.
Quelle horreur!

Or ... I can use it and get the same info at a glance even if you would rather read paragraphs of text.
The issue is that that trying to summarise things that way erases insane amount of nuance and complexity, and I don't think that is a good thing. Perhaps that mafioso who runs a well-oiled criminal network is also an impulsive and quirky? The alignment utterly fails at describing any sort of nuanced character with contradicting traits.
 

Oofta

Legend
Quelle horreur!


The issue is that that trying to summarise things that way erases insane amount of nuance and complexity, and I don't think that is a good thing. Perhaps that mafioso who runs a well-oiled criminal network is also an impulsive and quirky? The alignment utterly fails at describing any sort of nuanced character with contradicting traits.
No, just no. It's one descriptor, not the be all end all. It's another aspect of personality, a morale compass.

But this is the same old same old. Don't like it, don't use it.
 

Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
So alignment overrides INT score rather badly, or 'C' alignment means 'likes to lose fights by fighting less effectively'? That's not the way I've ever used alignment, and I don't think having intelligent enemies refuse to use sensible tactics adds anything useful to the game.
 

So alignment overrides INT score rather badly, or 'C' alignment means 'likes to lose fights by fighting less effectively'? That's not the way I've ever used alignment, and I don't think having intelligent enemies refuse to use sensible tactics adds anything useful to the game.
First, there are varying degrees of adherence to an alignment (which really should be represented mechanically in a way similar to Theros' Piety system, which can be hacked to represent a mechanical way of handling alignment rather easily).

Second, I'd say it depends on whether the characters are Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil. CG's would be better at handling this kind of organization for warfare, while in the case of demons the mariliths are expected to force lesser demons to fight according to a plan.

It's not like there aren't real world examples of intelligent people being sabotaged by their own rational or irrational self-interest to reject compromises that would ultimately benefit them if they'd only agree. The possibility of a threat to their autonomy is given more weight. A lower capability to defend themselves against more coordinated threats is one of the examples critics of anarchist philosophy use against it.

It doesn't mean necessarily that Chaotics are stupid; it's that they value their autonomy and agency more than they do survival in a less free state (better to die free than live a slave, or something like that).
 


Dessert Nomad

Adventurer
Second, I'd say it depends on whether the characters are Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil. CG's would be better at handling this kind of organization for warfare, while in the case of demons the mariliths are expected to force lesser demons to fight according to a plan.

So being evil also means dumber and/or less competent at fighting, in addition to chaotic meaning acting dumber and less competent? This whole thing of 'the more chaotic and/or evil they are, the fewer tactics they use' doesn't appear to be supported by game text on alignments at all. I just don't see support for the idea that alignment means less competence the further enemies are from "LG" anywhere.

It's not like there aren't real world examples of intelligent people being sabotaged by their own self-interest to reject compromises that would ultimately benefit them if they'd only agree. The possibility of a threat to their autonomy is given more weight.

It's not like there aren't real world examples of small units in armies that qualify as 'Evil' and/or 'Chaotic' that manage to fight using competent tactics. Making enemies fight in a dumber fashion based on their alignment just doesn't make much sense.
 

Hex08

Adventurer
Without alignment my character won't know what monsters he can justify killing without consequence....


...kidding...kind of....
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
No, usually it will be buried in paragraphs of text that you have to read carefully and then hope you remember it all.

Or ... I can use it and get the same info at a glance even if you would rather read paragraphs of text.
But what does that info at a glance actually mean? What does "lawful evil" really mean? There have been veritable essays on what each alignment actually means over the decades--which means that in order to understand an alignment, you have to carefully read through paragraphs of text and then hope you remember it all.

And then you have to hope that your definition matches up with another person's definition of the same alignment. As we saw with Gygax, he thought it was perfectly Lawful Good for a paladin to murder orc kids. Or take devils. It's often assumed that they make contracts, but those contracts are so filled with legalize, poorly-worded phrasing, misdirection, and loopholes that I wouldn't count them as lawful evil. To paraphrase the deva from OOTS, using chaotic means to achieve lawful goals seems pretty neutral to me.
 


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