Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

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Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Bobby Archer » Mon Jul 06, 2009 1:56 pm

So, I've been plotting out a D&D 3.5 campaign recently (just broad strokes at the moment: who, what, why, etc), and I started thinking about the main antagonist's alignment. Basically, he's murdering established heroes (his own friends, at that), and conspiring with dark powers to bring an end to all life on an entire plane of existence. This sounds pretty down the line Chaotic Evil, but his reasons for doing it are noble. Without going into too much detail about the campaign world, he believes that killing everyone and giving them a chance to be happy in heaven is preferential to them carving out hard, interminable lives in the dangerous, inhospitable world they live in. And he's not necessarily wrong about this. While his motivation will never land him on the Lawful end of the spectrum, from his perspective, he's still fighting for the Greater Good.

This led to me musing about how much interpretation and inference there are even in the fairly stratified Alignment system of pre-4e D&D. And just about every system has their own way of codifying behavior. I was wondering what other people tend to do about these systems. Is there one that you really like? Are intentions or actions more important? Or do you tend to ignore them?
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Welf von Ehrwald » Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:29 pm

I strongly suggest chaotic evil, with two dissenting opinions for chaotic neutral or just "chaotic".

Killing off a complete plane of existence is definitely insane. This means he rejected all known "good" ethic standards and made up his own. I assume he is beyond reasoning and will destroy everybody who will try to stop him or tries to convince him to do end it himself. This defines pure madness and that sounds like chaotic evil to me. He may belief that he is acting in the best interest of everybody, but that is wrong.

dissenting opinion 1: DnD defines evil as acting in self interest, and that he doesn't. If you, the Gamemaster, accept in this campaign world a "good" moral code, that includes genocide, than he could be neutral. He commits evil acts, but for a good cause. But that should be a conscious choice as part of the game design.

dissenting opinion 2: Make him just chaotic, and make the lack of an good/evil alignment part of the plot. he could be beyond any mortal moral, so mortals can not understand his motives. But that's outside the DnD system, so it doesn't answer you question.

By the way: why goes the villain on his killing spree? A traumatic experience (could constitute chaotic neutral) or did he lose empathy because of losing contact to other humans (that would indicate evil)?
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Pax » Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:06 pm

Remember that what a person THINKS is their alignment, and what it ACTUALLY is, can be entirely different.

So he may THINK he's, say, Chaotic Good ... and really be Neutral Evil.
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Cmdr I. Heartly Noah » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:59 am

Lawful Crazy?
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Binty » Tue Jul 07, 2009 7:34 am

Reminds me a story (probably myth) of a Catholic priest who murdered people after absolution and baptism.

As for your DnD character, I would point out to him that mortal life is a trial to determine where their immortal soul should be placed. Emptying a plane of life will prevent new souls being born to that plane - they will simply be born into another plane. So he is wasting his time; unless he wishes to achieve Godhood...
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby jioan » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:59 am

I always thought the alignment should reflect the character not the other way around. So sometimes I don't give my major NPCs an alignment until I roleplay as them a little.
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Kallisti » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:03 am

Pax wrote:Remember that what a person THINKS is their alignment, and what it ACTUALLY is, can be entirely different.

So he may THINK he's, say, Chaotic Good ... and really be Neutral Evil.


I always wanted to do a Deathknight that thinks he's a paladin. :mrgreen:
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Pax » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:10 am

Well, he can't really think "Im a paladin" ... but he COULD think "I'm doing what those paladins SHOULD be - they just don't understand ... they don't have the backbone to do what MUST be done!"

Evil pretty much always believes "the ends justify the means". Also, "to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs".
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Cmdr I. Heartly Noah » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:22 pm

I always think, "to make an omlette, you need cheese and bacon. LOTS of bacon.
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Doctari » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:19 pm

Well, the whole "Murdering and entire plane of sentient beings" and "Consorting with dark powers" puts him pretty firmly in the Evil side of the compass. Killing someone to save them pretty much hits up the whole crazier then a boop-house rat side of chaotic.

Even in the best case scenario (equal distribution of alignment) only 1/3 of the beings (the "good" ones) are going to go an idealized Heaven (unless thats a generalization and he is just trying to send them all to whatever afterlife awaits them) and he is going to be the executioner regardless of whether they could have attoned in later life etc.

So yeah. He should be taking the extra damage from Lawful and Good weapons.
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby Alcazabedabra » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:46 pm

Evil is self-interest?

Doesn't work. Lawful Evil *might* be described as exclusive self interest, but Chaotics tend to hurt themselves. Even willfully. No. Evil is not self-interest, it's more of an inversion of the human need to survive. It's a wish to destroy. It'll break down in roleplay terms if you try to run with that definition.



Okay, so you really want to roleplay evil? Evil people will select out things to hate. Anything that crosses them or annoys them is an enemy, and rather than solve it like a problem, they will try to destroy it. Sometimes covertly, like a bitter coward. Sometimes in the heat of rage, they'll charge at it swinging (like a Chaotic). Sometimes they'll run away in terror, only to return when they feel they've got the upper hand.

This is as opposed to a Neutral or a Good player - a Neutral will give up in boredom (true, chaotic) or try to profit from it (lawful). A Good character will try to turn a problem into an opportunity (chaotic, neutral), or failing that, defeat it in an honorable fashion (lawful).


Another thing about Evil - an Evil character can never admit he is wrong. A Good character will admit a mistake, apologize for stabbing the wrong guy, etc. Evil ones will justify, justify, justify. They never feel truly secure with their own morality, but being wrong is out of the question.
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Re: Alignment, Morality, and Virtues, oh my!

Postby jioan » Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:47 am

Although somewhat off-topic I was really disappointed with D&Ds 4th edition alignment system. They cut chaotic good, lawful neutral, chaotic neutral, and lawful evil. I used lawful evil a lot with my villians because they reflect the good side and are more honorable than them sometimes.
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