Author Topic: A world where [Good] and [Evil] are not necessarily the same as good and evil.  (Read 3069 times)

Offline 123456789blaaa

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(Apologies if my ramblings don't make any sense. I sometimes have a hard time transfering my thoughts to paper. Please remember that these are all a collection of ideas some of which may be dumb and some that may not make sense.)

Imagine a world where there are two cosmic forces opposed to each other. One of these cosmic forces is associated with beauty, love, kindess,light, and life. The other is associated with ugliness,hate,selfishness,darkness,death, and undeath. We shall call the first cosmic force [Good] and the second [Evil]. Remember that these forces are both very amoral.  Using spells or items or preforming acts associated with either of the cosmic forces enouph times causes you shift your alignment towards them. For example: a paladin who uses an [Evil] item (an item infused with the cosmic force of [Evil]) enough times becomes infused with the cosmic force of [Evil] and begins to have a mindset influenced by that cosmic force. He would begin to be more selfish and hateful and would begin to feel less disgust towards vermin,undead, and other things of that nature. The opposite is also true. However, these forces do not take into account intent or the larger consequences of actions.For example:  This means that a warlord giving his soldiers well made weapons and armor would be a [Good] aligned act even if he did it so that he could go and conquer other countries and if he did that sort of thing enough than his alignment would shift towards [Good]. This means that most evil regimes either do not last long (because it is kind of hard to have a stable regime when everyone is behaving selfishly and backstabbing each other) or turn into nice places to live in (because the ruler's alignment has changed to [Good]). You can apply the same sort of thinking to [Good] aligned regimes.

Races that are naturally inclined towards violence and hate (like orcs and gnolls) would be aligned to [Evil] most of the time while races that are inclined to be more peacefull (like elves) would be aligned to [Good] most of the time.In groups that are comprised of [Good] aligned people ugly people would likely be treated with suspicion or disdain because ugliness is associated with [Evil] while beautiful people would be trusted and well liked because beautiful is associated with [Good] the opposite would be true for groups comprised of mostly [Evil] aligned people. In this setting beings that don't have alignment subtypes can have both elements of [Good] and [Evil] inside them. For example: an [Evil] person could appreciate a beautiful painting even though beautiful is associated with [Good].

This is all very rough so ideas are welcome. For example I'm not sure about the gods in this world.

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Offline Amechra

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I'm reminded of a rewrite of the Great Wheel that I saw, where the planes were organized from Peaceful-Warlike, and Collectivism-Individualism (the Grey Wastes was a plane of pure self violence, where you just suffer until "you" ceases to exist as an entity; Elysium is just the most peaceful place ever, so nothing really gets done there.)
"There is happiness for those who accept their fate, there is glory for those that defy it."

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Offline phaedrusxy

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It... doesn't actually sound that different from canon D&D! :P
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Offline 123456789blaaa

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It... doesn't actually sound that different from canon D&D! :P

Well yes but in canon DnD [Good] and [Evil] are treated as actually good and evil whereas in my world they are 2 different things. What I also think is cool about my world is that these forces do not take into account intent or the larger consequences of actions (see the post). So the world is constantly in turmoil with people wildly swinging from being [Good] aligned to [Evil] aligned and back again. There were some other things too but I couldn't figure out a way to write them down that souded right.
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Offline phaedrusxy

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It... doesn't actually sound that different from canon D&D! :P

Well yes but in canon DnD [Good] and [Evil] are treated as actually good and evil whereas in my world they are 2 different things. What I also think is cool about my world is that these forces do not take into account intent or the larger consequences of actions (see the post). So the world is constantly in turmoil with people wildly swinging from being [Good] aligned to [Evil] aligned and back again. There were some other things too but I couldn't figure out a way to write them down that souded right.
I think this is exactly how canon D&D works. Good and Evil are objective things. Using an evil magic item spell makes you evil, even if you're doing it for a good reason. Going and conquering/killing other groups of people is OK as long as those people are "Evil", etc. Of course, not everyone believes that "Good" actions are the best actions (i.e. are "really good"), which is why there are still wars, people acting "Evil"ly, etc.

"Swinging wildly back and forth" would be a change in how many individual acts it takes (and the magnitude of those acts) to change your alignment, it sounds like, but this isn't something clearly codified in the canon D&D rules in the first place.
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Offline 123456789blaaa

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It... doesn't actually sound that different from canon D&D! :P

Well yes but in canon DnD [Good] and [Evil] are treated as actually good and evil whereas in my world they are 2 different things. What I also think is cool about my world is that these forces do not take into account intent or the larger consequences of actions (see the post). So the world is constantly in turmoil with people wildly swinging from being [Good] aligned to [Evil] aligned and back again. There were some other things too but I couldn't figure out a way to write them down that souded right.
I think this is exactly how canon D&D works. Good and Evil are objective things. Using an evil magic item spell makes you evil, even if you're doing it for a good reason. Going and conquering/killing other groups of people is OK as long as those people are "Evil", etc. Of course, not everyone believes that "Good" actions are the best actions (i.e. are "really good"), which is why there are still wars, people acting "Evil"ly, etc.

"Swinging wildly back and forth" would be a change in how many individual acts it takes (and the magnitude of those acts) to change your alignment, it sounds like, but this isn't something clearly codified in the canon D&D rules in the first place.

Bah, maybe I just couldn't explain that well.
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Offline Hans-E

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I had the same thought, that it didn't sound very different from canon DnD.

Your Paladin example, in particular, sounds like it could have come from canon DnD, or, for that matter, from just about any other fantasy source.

The Warlord example is more helpful in distinguishing your system, but I found it a little bit confusing.  You say providing well-made arms and armor to his soldiers is a [good] aligned act, but I'm not sure I understand why.  Is good craftsmanship associated with [good]? Is excellence in general a [good] trait? 

And, if neither intent nor results matter, what does?  Process?  It doesn't matter why you do something, nor what you do, only that you do it well?

Offline Amechra

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I'm thinking that he was driving at the fact that the Warlord was being generous.
"There is happiness for those who accept their fate, there is glory for those that defy it."

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Offline 123456789blaaa

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I had the same thought, that it didn't sound very different from canon DnD.

Your Paladin example, in particular, sounds like it could have come from canon DnD, or, for that matter, from just about any other fantasy source.

The Warlord example is more helpful in distinguishing your system, but I found it a little bit confusing.  You say providing well-made arms and armor to his soldiers is a [good] aligned act, but I'm not sure I understand why.  Is good craftsmanship associated with [good]? Is excellence in general a [good] trait? 

And, if neither intent nor results matter, what does?  Process?  It doesn't matter why you do something, nor what you do, only that you do it well?

Precisely
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Offline Hans-E

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If excellence is a [good] aligned trait, is there any separation between the two?  If not, wouldn't most high-level people be [good], and most low-level people be [evil]?

I guess, in a way, this isn't all that different from common real-world perceived morality.  Villain originally meant peasant, after all, and it's not hard to find a similar attitude towards modern poverty. Nor is it necessarily wrong to argue that excellence is a moral good. 

But what about the truly excellent necromancer?

Offline 123456789blaaa

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If excellence is a [good] aligned trait, is there any separation between the two?  If not, wouldn't most high-level people be [good], and most low-level people be [evil]?

I guess, in a way, this isn't all that different from common real-world perceived morality.  Villain originally meant peasant, after all, and it's not hard to find a similar attitude towards modern poverty. Nor is it necessarily wrong to argue that excellence is a moral good. 

But what about the truly excellent necromancer?

Well actually excellence isn't a [Good] aligned trait. In this world, the more you do acts associated with either of the forces the more they grab hold of your mind. You start personifying their traits more and more. Of course it is almost impossible for a person to be completely one dimensional and function in the world. If you are too [Good] aligned than you start to forgive your enemies even when it may not be a smart thing to do, You start to be too generous etc. If you are evil aligned than you start to be more hatefull and selfish, start backstabbing indiscriminately etc. If you want to do well in this world you have to be good at balancing the scales.

However your post is actually a very good idea. I actually prefer it more than my original idea.

Going with your idea, the truly excellent necromancer would have to balance out his use of undead with things associated with good. For example: because beauty is associated with good perhaps he creates beautiful sculptures of still living flesh and bone (Tzimisce anyone?)

Edit: To further expand on what I mean: giving the soldiers good weapons and armor is a [Good] aligned act because the act of giving is associated with [Good].

Edit: I think that my paladin example was a bad one. It is does fit in with the world but it doesn't really show the differences between my world and canon dnd. Let me try again. 

Imagine that there is a demon killing lots of people in the town square. To stop it from killing, the paladin has to kill it. If the paladin killed the demon that would be an [Evil} aligned act (because violence is associated with [Evil]). It doesn't matter that the demon was evil or that lots of people were saved. The cosmic forces do not take into account larger consequences of actions which is why his act was not [Good] aligned. The warlord is another example. The act of giving is associated with [Good] so his giving of armor and weapons to his soldiers is a [Good] act. it doesn't matter why he did it or what results from him doing it. It is the act itself that matters.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2012, 04:42:31 PM by 123456789blaaa »
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Offline Hans-E

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Honestly, I don't have much personal interest in a fixed moral framework like what you are developing, but I do like your latest example, quite a bit.  The inherent conflict between noble intent and violent act is one of the most interesting things about warrior ethics. 

I believe that in some formulations of the bushido code of ethics, it was acknowledged by the samurai that his violent life was a life of evil, and that his soul was damned for it.  Nonetheless, the code required that he carry out his role with propriety for propriety's sake. If you were forcing this into the DnD alignment paradigm (another concept I'm not particularly interested in), maybe it would have more to do with Law/Chaos than Good/Evil.

I don't know about "giving" weapons to one's troops as an act of generosity, though. Maybe that example would work better as a more ritualized exchange, like the feudal transfer of land/title for service.

Offline 123456789blaaa

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Honestly, I don't have much personal interest in a fixed moral framework like what you are developing, but I do like your latest example, quite a bit.  The inherent conflict between noble intent and violent act is one of the most interesting things about warrior ethics. 

I believe that in some formulations of the bushido code of ethics, it was acknowledged by the samurai that his violent life was a life of evil, and that his soul was damned for it.  Nonetheless, the code required that he carry out his role with propriety for propriety's sake. If you were forcing this into the DnD alignment paradigm (another concept I'm not particularly interested in), maybe it would have more to do with Law/Chaos than Good/Evil.

I don't know about "giving" weapons to one's troops as an act of generosity, though. Maybe that example would work better as a more ritualized exchange, like the feudal transfer of land/title for service.

I'm not. Now I'm really regretting calling the 2 cosmic forces [Good] and [Evil]. I just couldn't think of a name that wouldn't have people go "oh well he's basically talking about [Good] and [Evil] as presented in dnd.

That samurai code thing was kind of what I was gunning for. What I'm really interested in is how society would have developed if the stuff I'm describing in the Op was true. 

I'm wavering on whether the ritualized exchange thing is better than my previous example. Could you expand more on that?

Finally (for everyone else), keep in mind that what I'm describing in the Op is a collection of ideas, not a fully realized campaign setting. If something doesn't make sense or seems dumb tell me why and come up with a better idea.
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Offline Hans-E

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By the ritualized exchange, what I mean is that when most warrior societies (or other highly political cultures) list attributes that define good, the first thing listed is usually loyalty.  Loyalty is often ritualized in a gift-giving relationship, for instance a knight who receives a fief from his lord, and in exchange pledges service, and perhaps delivers gifts or plays host for his lord on special occasions. 

So, simply arming paid troops before an invasion, not necessarily good.  Gifting your knights with fine horses as a symbol of your beneficence and in exchange for their loyal service, good.

Offline 123456789blaaa

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By the ritualized exchange, what I mean is that when most warrior societies (or other highly political cultures) list attributes that define good, the first thing listed is usually loyalty.  Loyalty is often ritualized in a gift-giving relationship, for instance a knight who receives a fief from his lord, and in exchange pledges service, and perhaps delivers gifts or plays host for his lord on special occasions. 

So, simply arming paid troops before an invasion, not necessarily good.  Gifting your knights with fine horses as a symbol of your beneficence and in exchange for their loyal service, good.

That is a very good idea. It doesn't mesh with my original post but who cares about that?

In fact, lets mix that with your excellence as a [Good] aligned trait idea. This would result in a world where all the higher up people are [Good] aligned because to get high they had to be excellent in everything they do. In fact, if being bad at doing things turns you evil there would probably be quite a stigma attached to not being well off.  Also, since violence is an [Evil] aligned triat all the designated warriors would probably  probably adopt something like what the samuri's of old did (pretend they were already dead so that they would not fear death) because they would turn evil if they fought too long. They would probably kill themselves after a set time of being a warrior.
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Offline Hans-E

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If excellence is good, but violence is evil, and loyalty is good, but backstabbing is evil, you have room to have a big mix at the top.  Warriors can attempt to counteract the pollution of their violence through extravagant shows of loyalty, or chivalry, or pursuit of beauty (like a samurai who loves poetry or calligraphy), with varying degrees of success.  Seeking death in battle is the easiest way to commit suicide for the warrior class, though perhaps ritual suicide as atonement is possible too.

Offline Elevevated Beat

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You just wrinkled my brain.
But seriously, I like this concept. I believe I get where you were coming from in your first post. The world would be full of loving assassins; spiteful, yet benevolent rulers; and sociopath farmers.
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Offline Dkonen

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Sounds sort of Exalted-ish, where the pinnacles of sacred/goodliness/godliness on earth were great examples of their chosen sphere. Some of them were not very "good" but they were revered nonetheless... they're perception as being "evil" (or their sort of "descendants/incarnations") has really little to do with their acts so much as the downfall of the golden era by their hands. The loss of all the knowledge, power, ability and prosperity seems more of a condemnation than the slaying of entire populations.

Generally I have [good] and [evil] as celestial paradigms dealing with alliances and affiliations, whereas "good" and "evil" are an entirely separate kettle of fish.

So, yes, excellence would make you [good] or [evil] depending on who sponsored/encouraged you, but you could still be "good" [evil] (tyrant who helps his subjects because prosperity makes him more powerful personally and less likely to be opposed) or "evil" [good] (zealot who slaughters entire towns because of their "taint", down to the children).

Generally I'm not a favor of static alignments anyways, so alignment descriptors are more resonance based on whose side you're most aligned with. In the larger cosmic ideal, it might as well be [ team red] vs. [team blue].

On an individual level.....it's all dependent on your deities ideals and the deific ideals of those around you as to whether you are "good" or "evil".  A pacifistic god would see any warrior as evil, even the defenders-since they are violent and shed blood, whereas a god of warrior ideals would see pacifists as evil since they allow innocents to be slaughtered.

Yeah... it gets complicated. That's why we reserve detect alignment for mostly auras and supernatural entities. That and it's really hard for a DM to know whether the motivations of a character were noble or not, since few tend to explain their actions to the DM.
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