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Does casting a spell with the [Evil] descriptor turn you Evil?


General Discussion (Prerelease)

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Help me settle a debate with my DM. We are arguing over whether or not a Lawful Neutral Wizard is capable of casting Animate Dead and if they are capable of casting it does doing so turn them evil?

P.160 wrote:

Appearing on the same line as the school and subschool, when applicable, is a descriptor that further categorizes the spell in some way. Some spells have more than one descriptor.

The descriptors are acid, air, chaotic, cold, darkness, death, earth, electricity, evil, fear, fire, force, good, language-dependent, lawful, light, mind affecting, sonic,and water. Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves, but they govern how the spell interacts with other spells, with special abilities, with unusual creatures, with alignment, and so on.

A language-dependent spell uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or cannot hear what the caster of a language dependant spell says the spell fails.

A mind-affecting spell works only against creatures with an Intelligence score of 1 or higher.

So the relevant questions:

1) Can a Neutral character cast a spell with the "Evil" descriptor?

2) If the answer to question 1 is yes, which section of the rules quote is enforced:
a) "Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves", or
b) "but they govern how the spell interacts... with alignment"

3) If the answer to question 2 is part b, what does interacts mean:
a) characters with opposing alignments are prevented from casting the spell, or
b) does casting a spell with the "Evil" descriptor force a character to become evil

4) If the answer to question 3 is part b, is becoming evil:
a) All or nothing, one casting and you are Evil, or
b) A gradual slider that can be counterbalanced by performing good actions

5) Are we missing other relevant rules?

Finally, I would appreciate it if answers to this topic could be restricted to PfRPG rules. I am not interested in the interpretation from other settings or older rules sets.

Thanks,

Argothe

Andoran

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Argothe wrote:

So the relevant questions:

1) Can a Neutral character cast a spell with the "Evil" descriptor?

Absolutely. (But alignment is not a complete non-issue - see the next question.)

Argothe wrote:

2) If the answer to question 1 is yes, which section of the rules quote is enforced:

a) "Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves", or
b) "but they govern how the spell interacts... with alignment"

The answer is both, but to a limited extent only. Alignment comes into play pretty much exclusively with divine casters, who are prohibited from casting spells with alignment descriptors that are the opposite of their own alignment (and, at least for clerics, the alignment of their deity). So a good druid or a good cleric could not cast a spell with the [Evil] descriptor, but a neutral one could - unless they were a cleric of a good god, in which case it's still a no-no.

Argothe wrote:

3) If the answer to question 2 is part b, what does interacts mean:

a) characters with opposing alignments are prevented from casting the spell, or
b) does casting a spell with the "Evil" descriptor force a character to become evil

According to the RAW, nothing in the casting of an [Evil] spell makes you evil. This is a frequent house-rule, however, inasmuch as many GMs see such actions as evil, which will push you toward an evil alignment over time. The answer is mostly A, but only for divine casters.

Argothe wrote:

4) If the answer to question 3 is part b, is becoming evil:

a) All or nothing, one casting and you are Evil, or
b) A gradual slider that can be counterbalanced by performing good actions

Even with house-rules, most of the discussion I've seen on this topic has tended toward B. Only the hardest of hard-liner alignment GMs have argued for something resembling A.

Argothe wrote:
5) Are we missing other relevant rules?

None that I'm aware of.

Argothe wrote:
Finally, I would appreciate it if answers to this topic could be restricted to PfRPG rules.

For what it's worth, there's nothing in the PF Beta that separates this topic out from the debates over the same question that appeared in 3.5.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Argothe wrote:

So the relevant questions:

1) Can a Neutral character cast a spell with the "Evil" descriptor?

Yes they can.

Argothe wrote:

2) If the answer to question 1 is yes, which section of the rules quote is enforced:

a) "Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves", or
b) "but they govern how the spell interacts... with alignment"

Both a and b are still accurate. "Most descriptors have no game effect by themselves", and "they govern how the spell interacts... with alignment".

Pathfinder RPG Beta wrote:

Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells: A cleric can’t

cast spells of an alignment opposed to her own or her
deity’s. Spells associated with particular alignments are
indicated by the chaos, evil, good, and law descriptors in
their spell descriptions.

You'll find that Druids have a similar statement in their class description.

Argothe wrote:

3) If the answer to question 2 is part b, what does interacts mean:

a) characters with opposing alignments are prevented from casting the spell, or
b) does casting a spell with the "Evil" descriptor force a character to become evil

For part a, it's not all characters, it's clerics and druids of opposing alignment.

I do not believe part b is explicitly addressed in the beta. Someone else may have a better answer for this part.

Argothe wrote:

4) If the answer to question 3 is part b, is becoming evil:

a) All or nothing, one casting and you are Evil, or
b) A gradual slider that can be counterbalanced by performing good actions

Like I said, I don't see where part 3b is addresses, but I believe 4 would most certainly be b.

Argothe wrote:
5) Are we missing other relevant rules?

Missing? Well...

I don't see anything about this in the 3.5 core rulebooks or the SRD. Just vague guidelines for DMs.

This system was somewhat quantified in Fiendish Codex I and II, and it's what I use for my games. Alignment shifts as well as atonement are covered.

Hope this helps.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

The way I look at this is not that casting [Evil] spells makes you Evil, but that if you do it alot, you're probably evil regardless of what's written on your character sheet.

To put it another way, committing murder doesn't turn you Evil after a certain number of murders. You're Evil for comitting the murders in the first place.


Argothe wrote:
1) Can a Neutral character cast a spell with the "Evil" descriptor?

Of course he can. Why not? Casting a spell with an evil or good or chaos or law descriptor doesn't change your alignment, nor does it indicate that you've sided, or become allied with, this alignment.

Even a good spellcaster can cast a spell with an evil descriptor, unless they belong to a class that has specific restrictions. For example, clerics are not allowed to cast spells of an alignment opposed to their deity (both in 3.5 and in Pathfinder), so if a cleric worships a LG deity, he cannot cast chaotic or evil spells. But that is in the class description, not in the general description of magic or of spell descriptors.

Argothe wrote:

2) If the answer to question 1 is yes, which section of the rules quote is enforced:

a) "Most of these descriptors have no game effect by themselves", or
b) "but they govern how the spell interacts... with alignment"

Both.

Casting an Evil spell has no game effect - on you. You're still whatever alignment you were before.

But casting an Evil spell creates an aura that lingers. This effect is described in the Pathfinder Beta rules under the Detect Evil spell, page 217.

Argothe wrote:

3) If the answer to question 2 is part b, what does interacts mean:

a) characters with opposing alignments are prevented from casting the spell, or
b) does casting a spell with the "Evil" descriptor force a character to become evil

a) No

b) No

For example, Animate Dead might be a strong evil aura. You could cast that spell with no game effect on you. You don't turn evil, and you're certainly not prevented from casting the spell.

But then you and your undead minions walk away. The Evil aura from that spell lingers for 1d6x10 minutes and someone casting Detect Evil in that area within that time will know that Evil was here, and may even determin the number of evil auras, creatures, etc., and might even learn the power and location of each Evil aura.

Argothe wrote:

4) If the answer to question 3 is part b, is becoming evil:

a) All or nothing, one casting and you are Evil, or
b) A gradual slider that can be counterbalanced by performing good actions

Not really relevent, since casting the spell won't make you evil.

Argothe wrote:
5) Are we missing other relevant rules?

I don't think so.

Here's the 3.5 FAQ ruling, which is equally relevent to Pathfinder since Pathfinder contains no rules to contradict this FAQ:

Spoiler:

d20 SRD FAQ, Evil Spell Descriptor wrote:

Necromancy sounds evil. Are all the necromancy spells available to good-aligned spell casters?

First of all, most necromancy spells aren’t considered “Evil,” at least as far as the game rules are concerned. The game rules only care whether a spell has the Evil descriptor, such as animate dead.

That said, most spellcasters aren’t prevented from casting spells with the Evil descriptor, nor do they suffer any penalty or ill effect for doing so. Only certain classes have restrictions or ramifications involved with using spells with an alignment descriptor, and those are clearly spelled out in the class descriptions.

For example, clerics and druids can’t cast spells of an alignment opposed to his or his deity’s (if he has one). A neutral good cleric of Moradin couldn’t cast spells with the Evil descriptor (because that’s opposed to both his and his deity’s alignment). Even though the cleric himself isn’t lawful, he also couldn’t cast spells with the Chaotic descriptor, because that’s opposed to Moradin’s alignment of lawful good.

Argothe wrote:
Finally, I would appreciate it if answers to this topic could be restricted to PfRPG rules. I am not interested in the interpretation from other settings or older rules sets.

And yet, some 3.5 wisdom still applies to Pathfinder. Even if you choose to disregard the d20 FAQ ruling, the logic is still sound, and nothing in the Pathfinder rules contradicts it.

The long and short of it is, the descriptor on the spell tells you what kind of spell it is, but otherwise it has no effect on you whatsoever unless you belong to a class that says, in your specific class description, that you are prohibited from casting those spells.

Some notes:

Your alignment is the sum of the actions you take. You can write LG on your character sheet, but if you run around eating little children and burning down their orphanages, you won't be LG. Pointing to the spot on your character sheet that says you're LG won't help you.

Spells are tools. Some of these tools have certain descriptors on them that have some interactions with other game mechanics. Other than adjudicating those game mechanics, there is no benefit or penalty to useing the spells regardless of their descriptors.

Ultimately, it's what you do with the spells that matters.

I would think the LN wizard who fireballs a classroom full of innocent orphans will become evil much sooner (immediately, perhaps) than the LN wizard who summons a Fiendish Tiger to kill a bunch of orcs who are about to attack that schoolroom and eat those children.


Argothe wrote:
Help me settle a debate with my DM.

Looks like everyone is saying the same thing.

So, did you win the debate?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

It can be situational and vary by campaign.

For example, in Arcanis, casting Animate Dead on a corpse has the following setting consequence in addition to the standard spell effects.

1. The undead created are not neccessarily mindless and more importantly..

2. It eliminates the possiblity of any normal ressurrection for the person affected as the body as already been handed to the charge of Neroth who does not let go of what he has gained. In this case such a casting can be a very evil act and is frequently done right after an assasination to make the hit permmanent.

If however the sunrise deadline has already passed. (In Arcanis the absoltue deadline for ressurrection is the following sunrise for most folks like Humans) the spell can be cast as a utility spell as is done in the nation of Canceri.

Also in Eberron, the Nation of Karnaath regularly supplements it's armies with undead.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
DM_Blake wrote:
Argothe wrote:
Help me settle a debate with my DM.

Looks like everyone is saying the same thing.

So, did you win the debate?

Not neccessarily for even if the DM acknowledges the arguments here, the situation may still have marked it as an evil act.

One other thing....you don't win debates with a DM. You may get them to modify thier viewpoints, but it's ultimately thier game. The one absolute right you have is to leave it.

Shadow Lodge

Technically, according to the alignment rules of D&D, casting an [Evil] spell, is an evil act. Regardless of why, it is an evil act, (because you are drawing on evil energies, and infusing them into the world, thus spreading more pain, greed, cruelty, etc. . . by it's very nature).

While casting an evil spell will not automatically turn you evil, doing so over time, will. (same thing for [Good] spells turning you good.)

The DM, not the player, the DM has control of when characters switch alignments. That means that the DM will tell you that you have just turned evil, (or it can be cooperative).

I personally do not like the abstract D&D morality, but that is how it actually works. Getting paid by the local headhunter's guild to go track down a demon and slaughter it, is a good act, because you are ridding the world of something inately evil.


LazarX wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Argothe wrote:
Help me settle a debate with my DM.

Looks like everyone is saying the same thing.

So, did you win the debate?

Not neccessarily for even if the DM acknowledges the arguments here, the situation may still have marked it as an evil act.

One other thing....you don't win debates with a DM. You may get them to modify thier viewpoints, but it's ultimately thier game. The one absolute right you have is to leave it.

My DM is going to decide what he is going to decide. Moreover, the campaign setting takes precedence and it provides a definitive ruling on the issue. All the same we were having a debate about who's interpretation of the rules as written for PfRPG was correct. Hence my request for aid from the community. This isn't about what happens at the gaming table, this is about who is right, today, which is ultimately far more important :)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Beckett wrote:

Technically, according to the alignment rules of D&D, casting an [Evil] spell, is an evil act. Regardless of why, it is an evil act, (because you are drawing on evil energies, and infusing them into the world, thus spreading more pain, greed, cruelty, etc. . . by it's very nature).

While casting an evil spell will not automatically turn you evil, doing so over time, will. (same thing for [Good] spells turning you good.)

Note that lots of spells that you'd think would be good such as Cures, and Heals aren't "good" any more than "inflicts" are "evil".


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is by no means official, but a DM might decide that casting spells with the Evil descriptor cause the caster to become Tainted (per optional Taint rules). Just an idea. Cast enough evil spells and your Taint score goes up. Atone or perform good deeds and you might be able to reduce the Taint. Technically that's what I do in my campaigns. Same thing with spells with the Shadow descriptor (but to a lesser extent).

Shadow Lodge

I like the taint rules (heroes of horror and unearthed arcana) which come from oriental adventures, I believe. However, I think it goes a long way if players don't know the taint rules (just the basics), and don't know their taint score, or onlt via descriptions.

A long time ago, in a 3.5 game I ran, I would periodically take away character sheets for whole games. I was trying to play using only descriptions rather than hard and fast numbers for things like HP. I left spells sheets and feats and things, but they didn't have access to hp, encumberance, conditional modifiers like poison or disease. It was a lot more work on my part, but generally well received. Only major complaint was from rules lawyers who essentually complained about everything because I'd taken their chance at arguement away, so they would try to make everyone feel wronged. Anyway, I think this would work awesomely with taint. Just a general taint or the official taint rules.


DM_Blake wrote:
Argothe wrote:
Help me settle a debate with my DM.

Looks like everyone is saying the same thing.

So, did you win the debate?

Sadly, he has this vision in his head of how this works and feels that this is an important tradition from D&D of old. Neither the fact that the PfRPG rules do not say that he is correct - perhaps even say that he is incorrect - nor the presence of a FAQ explicitly stating that he is incorrect, can convince him. It rather reminds me of the discussion we had regarding spells per day... :)


Argothe wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Argothe wrote:
Help me settle a debate with my DM.

Looks like everyone is saying the same thing.

So, did you win the debate?

Sadly, he has this vision in his head of how this works and feels that this is an important tradition from D&D of old. Neither the fact that the PfRPG rules do not say that he is correct - perhaps even say that he is incorrect - nor the presence of a FAQ explicitly stating that he is incorrect, can convince him. It rather reminds me of the discussion we had regarding spells per day... :)

The difference is, when you argued with a DM about spells per day, the DM was right, but when you're arguing with a DM about evil descriptors, you're the one who's right.

;)

Weird, being right when nobody listens...


I don't know (nor care) about how PF handles aligned spells, but you might want to consider this little joke:

A little chicken sees a fox nearby. Scared, the poultry hides behind a cow who, unknowing of the chick's prescence, takes a crap, which falls on top of the poor thing, who starts tweeting. Hearing the noise, the fox finds the chicken and, after taking it out of the (proportional) mountain of crap it was buried in, eats it.

Morale: Someone who slings crap at doesn't necessarily mean you harm. Someone who takes you out of the crap isn't necessarily helping you... and if you're neck-deep in crap then it's better to keep quiet.

An alignment is a guideline, not a straightjacket, someone who is exclusively represented for one aspect of his personality isn't a person, is a caricature. Good people isn't necessarily goody-goody all the time (even Jesus has sins documented in the bible), and evil people don't have to be evil 24/7. In addition, you can do good things out of evil ulterior motives, and you can do evil things for the sake of the greater good, it's all about intentions (only Abadar would condemn to hell someone who animates dead guards to protect an orphanage from an invasion of rampaging, hungry gnolls).

If you're talking about divine magic, then obviously a good-aligned deity won't grant [evil] spells to their clergy, but nothing prevents a curious wizard from memorizing Animate Dead just to see what happens.

Also, animating the dead is considered evil only among cultures who believe in the sanctity of the grave. Your spellcaster may not believe in such, but then he should have a solid reason why, otherwise, someone who has the custom of desecrating the rest of their fellow men on a weekly basis is showing there's something -wrong- with him (either he's NE or he has psychiatric issues). You may circumvent this social taboo, however, by restricting yourself to animating dead monsters and animals (it's -medieval- fantasy, and medieval people don't know better about a lot of things, and you can tell your GM to save his enlightened-humanism animal-rights principles for anime fantasy, or perhaps Absalom).

Once all is said and done, however, placing [alignment] tags on spells is lame IMHO, not only it serves no game mechanics other than a quick-search of which spells a deity may not grant to his clerics, but also pretends to save players the need to THINK for themselves.

While energy draining someone to death isn't more "evil" than burning him to a crisp with a fireball, -of course- I won't use the spell "Burn a box of kittens then skin you alive and pour maximized lemon and salt all over your raw muscle tissue while I force you to watch me defiling your wife and children"... NOT because the spell is [evil], but BECAUSE I'M GOOD DAMMIT.

OF course you can always try to reach a compromise with your DM, tell him to change your [subtype] to [evil], not your alignment. After all, a Paladin's Detect Evil will still sense a Tiefling regardless of whether he's actually evil or not.

Shadow Lodge

I generally agree with you, as far as the way it should be. In D&D, creating undead is evil. Anyone that casts said spells, is literally bringing more evil into the world, regardless of what their deity says, they believe, or the circumstances involved, (I can think of good reasons to animate undead).

But that is just how the D&D world ethics work. I personally don't like that system, and don't use it. Just like I don't use the star wars using a dark side power is an automatic dark side force point thing. But that is how it is according to the rules.

In 2nd ed, a good cleric of pelor could cast animate dead. In fact pelor couldn't do anything to stop you from doing so. But if you didn't have a damn good dm approved reason to do so, don't expect to get any new spells tomorrow. I prefer that approach, myself.

Shadow Lodge

Actually, teiflings don't have an evil subtype, so detect evil will only work if they are actually evil aligned, just like anyone else. Holy water also doesn't hurt them at all.


Beckett wrote:
Just like I don't use the star wars using a dark side power is an automatic dark side force point thing. But that is how it is according to the rules.

Actually there might be a reason for the "dark-side points for using dark-side powers" if you step away from Lucas' black/white fantasy view of his universe and you take it from its roots:

According to the Chi Kung (what Lucas bastardized to create his "force"), there are two kinds of chi. Positive chi is the chi that exists in a "free state" everywhere, this chi can be channeled and used with the required training, the prime requisite, however, is for you to be calm while using it.

Negative chi, on the other side, isn't natural in that it only forms when a person is in an emotional state of distress: fear, anger, anguish, all those emotional states cause you to generate negative chi, and an acumulation of this energy contaminates your body and affects your health in a negative way. Just like positive chi, theoretically you could train yourself to use this negative energy, but obviously this requires that you keep generating negative chi, harming yourself in the long run.

Extrapolating this to the Star Wars universe, just imagine the mindset and emotional state you'd need to create enough negative chi to cast a Force Lightning or Force Grip... you'd need to become such a loathing/self loathing machine as to literally "hate someone to death".

And that was today's useless trivia. =D

For these reasons, though, I suggested my SW GM a houserule of only force users being eligible for acquiring dark side points... I mean, just look at how many human criminals are in Star Wars, and they aren't horned, tentacled, weird-eyed monstrosities (starting with the clone army in clone wars, for those who have read the Republic Commando novels).


The appropriate wording the 3.5 SRD and PF Beta haven't changed at all, and the thread is pretty much in agreement about how that should be read.

The rules allow that Spell Descriptors may interact with alignment, but aside from the Cleric and Druid spell choices, it does not specify what that interaction may be.

Leaving aside the "I can house rule whatever I want" thing, it really is a core job of the DM to judge how every action weighs on each character's alignment. There is no rule in the book that categorically states that a person who steals money from an orphanage becomes more evil. Even though there's no rule in the book, none of us would reproach a DM who chose to label such a character at LEAST neutral if not evil.

This is not WoW. Good and Evil are not factions that you gain or lose standing with. You don't eat one orphan baby (thanks for the example DM_Blake) for 5 Evil Points and then go summon 5 celestials to get back to neutral.

I think as part of the DM's prerogative it is entirely reasonable to state that casting [Evil] spells is an evil act that will start to bend your actual alignment. There are certainly many examples in classic fantasy of rituals that are forbidden knowledge, rites that are considered darkest evil. You lose a lot if you give that up in your campaign world.

When your alignment does bend a bit, it may not change how you play the character one little bit. In fact it probably won't matter at all until someone casts a Know Alignment or Detect Evil and you start to sweat a little.

If you're playing a neutral Necromancer, you're already aiming for a character with some moral conflict, so walking that line could be interesting for role play.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Argothe wrote:


Sadly, he has this vision in his head of how this works and feels that this is an important tradition from D&D of old. Neither the fact that the PfRPG rules do not say that he is correct - perhaps even say that he is incorrect - nor the presence of a FAQ explicitly stating that he is incorrect, can convince him. It rather reminds me of the discussion we had regarding spells per day... :)

This is one of those questions that you're not going to find a hard and fast answer to it, and I think you shouldn't. It really should depend on how the universe treats magic. In Eberron for instance, the gods don't police thier clerics and don't care how corrupt they become as long as the forms are filled out. In Living Death the most kindly hearted priest can corrupt himself by casting Cure Disease on a sick orphan because ALL magic carries the risk of taint.

So your DM is right because that is how he has answered the question for his campaign.

Shadow Lodge

Living Death, or Red Death?

What is Living Death?


So I routinely cast Summon Monster spells to net me some Celestial Monkeys. Since the monkeys are LG that makes the spell a [Good] spell. Even though I use the monkeys to set off traps when the rogue can't be there that week.
Sweet, on my way to lawful good!

Personally I think that using an [Evil] spell, especially something with such dubious classification as a Summoning spell, for a good reason still nets you an overall good action. Summoned creatures and undead, as long as they are under your control, are just tools and the way you use them should dictate whether you fall from grace or not.
Your deity may disagree, and so may your DM, but that's how I feel.

edit:words and stuff.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Spells with the Evil descriptor are evil; that's why they have that descriptor. Same goes for Good or Lawful or Chaotic. That means that certain classes can't really cast them at all (divine classes of different alignments), but that other classes (arcane spellcasters, for the most part) can cast them as much as they like. But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment, unless the GM doesn't care about alignment and doesn't enforce such changes, in which case the GM should let EVERY player at the table know that alignment doesn't impact the game so that players who do play as if it does have a chance to adjust their play styles as appropriate. Removing the alignment types of certain spells has implications, though, and before you do so make sure that no one in your group is planning on building a character who uses the alignemnt descriptors in their character build!


I do like the rules for using Taint in Heroes of Horror, as it addresses this. You can use {evil} spells, but over time, you gain more of a taint score, and eventually, your alignment must be neutral at a certain point, and then it must be evil at another point.

Its not an immediate thing, and you can reverse the effects if you are playing the "good guy that has to do the unthinkable to save the world," and still have some consequences for taking that action.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Modules Subscriber

This sort of questioning always leads me to 'if I cast a spell with the GOOD descriptor , does that make me good? Or slide me along the scale towards good?'
Imagine Nasty Wizard who enslaves and destroys fluffy bunnies, but casts a good descriptor spell daily to keep his alignment on a nice neutral (not effected by Detect Evil, etc) location. I know it is a bit facetious but rules wise you are fine, in your campaign? Well you'll have to fight that out with the DM :-)

What is good for the goose is good for the gander?

Shadow Lodge

I mentioned that earlier. I would imagine casting a good spell for a good cause would be more the determining factor. Similar with evil spells. There are not a lot of (nondivine) good spells really.


I don't see it as black and white. You can't switch alignments a hundred times a day by casting protection from good, protection from evil, protection from good, protection from evil,.....

Spells with [alignment] descriptors carry a tiny little amount of inherent [alignment]. If you use them a lot, you might eventually "tarnish", one iota at a time.

What you do with the spell is much more important. If you summon an angel (good) and command it to kill babies, the tiny piece of good will be insignificant against the tide of evil that will wash you all the way to hell.

Some [alignment] spells will have have stronger inherent impacts, of course.

But it's entirely possible to use, say, protection from evil as a diabolist fighting against demons without turning into an angel on the spot.


mach1.9pants wrote:

This sort of questioning always leads me to 'if I cast a spell with the GOOD descriptor , does that make me good? Or slide me along the scale towards good?'

Imagine Nasty Wizard who enslaves and destroys fluffy bunnies, but casts a good descriptor spell daily to keep his alignment on a nice neutral (not effected by Detect Evil, etc) location. I know it is a bit facetious but rules wise you are fine, in your campaign? Well you'll have to fight that out with the DM :-)

What is good for the goose is good for the gander?

Think of it like this. Cake makes you fat, celery is good for you. If you eat a third of a cake every night and one stalk of celery every morning, you're still going to end up rather rotund. The celery doesn't balance out the cake.

Associating yourself with the raw magical energies of Good, Evil, Law or Chaos will slightly bend you that way, but your actions probably carry a lot more weight. However if you're habitually and routinely casting those spells they add up to a noticeable effect.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Spells with the Evil descriptor are evil; that's why they have that descriptor. Same goes for Good or Lawful or Chaotic. That means that certain classes can't really cast them at all (divine classes of different alignments), but that other classes (arcane spellcasters, for the most part) can cast them as much as they like. But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment, unless the GM doesn't care about alignment and doesn't enforce such changes, in which case the GM should let EVERY player at the table know that alignment doesn't impact the game so that players who do play as if it does have a chance to adjust their play styles as appropriate. Removing the alignment types of certain spells has implications, though, and before you do so make sure that no one in your group is planning on building a character who uses the alignemnt descriptors in their character build!

There are several possibilities for how to play this.

One is that a deity will never grant a spell to a cleric with an alignment descriptor against their alignment. Simple.

But you could take this further: you could rule that these spells don't even "appear on the spell list" of the cleric. This means they can't use scrolls or wands (etc) with these spells without the appropriate skill rolls.

Another possibility is that a cleric can request and receive such spells, but doing so starts to degrade their powers in some way until they receive atonement.


James Jacobs wrote:
Spells with the Evil descriptor are evil; that's why they have that descriptor. Same goes for Good or Lawful or Chaotic. That means that certain classes can't really cast them at all (divine classes of different alignments), but that other classes (arcane spellcasters, for the most part) can cast them as much as they like. But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment, unless the GM doesn't care about alignment and doesn't enforce such changes, in which case the GM should let EVERY player at the table know that alignment doesn't impact the game so that players who do play as if it does have a chance to adjust their play styles as appropriate. Removing the alignment types of certain spells has implications, though, and before you do so make sure that no one in your group is planning on building a character who uses the alignemnt descriptors in their character build!

James, thanks for the clarification. Could you make sure this winds up in the FAQ? It would be useful to have an official ruling on this since the text in the rules is unclear and since the WizO FAQ appears to come to the opposite conclusion.


Argothe wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Spells with the Evil descriptor are evil; that's why they have that descriptor. Same goes for Good or Lawful or Chaotic. That means that certain classes can't really cast them at all (divine classes of different alignments), but that other classes (arcane spellcasters, for the most part) can cast them as much as they like. But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment, unless the GM doesn't care about alignment and doesn't enforce such changes, in which case the GM should let EVERY player at the table know that alignment doesn't impact the game so that players who do play as if it does have a chance to adjust their play styles as appropriate. Removing the alignment types of certain spells has implications, though, and before you do so make sure that no one in your group is planning on building a character who uses the alignemnt descriptors in their character build!
James, thanks for the clarification. Could you make sure this winds up in the FAQ? It would be useful to have an official ruling on this since the text in the rules is unclear and since the WizO FAQ appears to come to the opposite conclusion.

While it would be nice to have it clearly stated in a FAQ, I think the 3.5 FAQ makes it clear enough. I quoted it earlier in this thread and it says pretty much the same thing as Mr. Jacombs said.


DM_Blake wrote:
While it would be nice to have it clearly stated in a FAQ, I think the 3.5 FAQ makes it clear enough. I quoted it earlier in this thread and it says pretty much the same thing as Mr. Jacombs said.

The FAQ you quoted states:

3.5 FAQ wrote:

That said, most spellcasters aren’t prevented from casting spells with the Evil descriptor, nor do they suffer any penalty or ill effect for doing so. Only certain classes have restrictions or ramifications involved with using spells with an alignment descriptor, and those are clearly spelled out in the class descriptions.

For example, clerics and druids can’t cast spells of an alignment opposed to his or his deity’s (if he has one). A neutral good cleric of Moradin couldn’t cast spells with the Evil descriptor (because that’s opposed to both his and his deity’s alignment). Even though the cleric himself isn’t lawful, he also couldn’t cast spells with the Chaotic descriptor, because that’s opposed to Moradin’s alignment of lawful good.

James stated:

James Jacobs wrote:
But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment

Those two statements are conflicting. The 3.5 FAQ states that casting aligned spells will not change your alignment, James's response says that casting aligned spells will change your alignment. Since the rule book is unclear the PfRPG FAQ should be updated so that DM's don't revert to the 3.5 FAQ which comes to a conclusion different than that of the Paizo Editor in Chief.


3.5 FAQ wrote:
That said, most spellcasters aren’t prevented from casting spells with the Evil descriptor, nor do they suffer any penalty or ill effect for doing so.
James Jacobs wrote:
But casting alignment spells a lot will and should turn the caster toward that alignment
Argothe wrote:
Those two statements are conflicting.

Only if you assume that changing alignment is a "penalty or ill effect." If you instead consider it an essential story element, then there is no conflict whatsoever.


Yeah the only way that changing alignment is a penalty is if you have a situation like the paladin does.


Again we argue semantics. The fact that we're finding wiggle room to continue discussion only illustrates the need for it to appear in the PF RPG FAQ :)

I think enough people would consider turning evil to be an 'ill effect' that these statements can be accurately perceived as conflicting.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

This isn't a computer game. Not everything needs to be spelled out in black and white; my suggestion above is how I would run things in my game, but as pointed out it's not 100% entirely accurate/supported by the rules. This is not a flaw in the game, though; the fact that there's so much open for interpretation is a strength. It lets every GM customize the game as he/she prefers. That might just be a pet peeve of mine, though...


James Jacobs wrote:
This is not a flaw in the game, though; the fact that there's so much open for interpretation is a strength. It lets every GM customize the game as he/she prefers.

One of my favourite aspects of pen and paper RPGs: They're not like computer games, you have more freedom and are able to make it your very own experience.

And it's not like I don't love computer/video games. I have a game-worthy PC and a Wii, after all.

Shadow Lodge

I haven't looked for this recently, but I know there was an official answer. I had thought it was in FAQ, but could have been in Sages Advice or a a question I personally wrote in to WotC, (doubt it). Anyway, casting an alignment spell doesn't automatically do it. Casting an alignment spell should cause the dm, not the player, to change the characters alignment.


This is covered a bit in the Book of Exalted Deeds, but I never agreed with that book's answer. IIRC, the BoED says 'yes, casting Evil spells will ultimately make you evil' and the reverse, going on about cosmic balance and whatnot.

My personal answer: a spell is a tool. Tools aren't evil-the person using the tool might be.


James Jacobs wrote:
This isn't a computer game. Not everything needs to be spelled out in black and white; my suggestion above is how I would run things in my game, but as pointed out it's not 100% entirely accurate/supported by the rules. This is not a flaw in the game, though; the fact that there's so much open for interpretation is a strength. It lets every GM customize the game as he/she prefers. That might just be a pet peeve of mine, though...

James,

My apologies. I interpreted your initial response in this thread as the official Paizo answer; I did not get the impression that you were only responding as to how you would rule if you were the DM. Is the official Paizo answer that this was left intentionally vague, that the rules do not take a stand either way, and that it is up to each DM to decide how they want to rule on this in their games?

Andoran

It might be best if the rules for alignment and spells worked for all casters exactly the same way. I don't quite understand why a wizard who is evil would be able to cast a good spell and a cleric of an evil diety could not.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Argothe wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
This isn't a computer game. Not everything needs to be spelled out in black and white; my suggestion above is how I would run things in my game, but as pointed out it's not 100% entirely accurate/supported by the rules. This is not a flaw in the game, though; the fact that there's so much open for interpretation is a strength. It lets every GM customize the game as he/she prefers. That might just be a pet peeve of mine, though...

James,

My apologies. I interpreted your initial response in this thread as the official Paizo answer; I did not get the impression that you were only responding as to how you would rule if you were the DM. Is the official Paizo answer that this was left intentionally vague, that the rules do not take a stand either way, and that it is up to each DM to decide how they want to rule on this in their games?

The official answer is that I had assumed it worked the way I mentioned it working in the previous post, and if it doesn't because it's more vague, then I suspect it was left vague accidentally (because we assumed it was in there or it wasn't) or on purpose (because we wanted to leave it up to each GM). In either case, I think that it being vague is the correct way to handle it, since it allows and implies more freedom to the GM.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Studpuffin wrote:
I don't quite understand why a wizard who is evil would be able to cast a good spell and a cleric of an evil diety could not.

Because the source of their spells differs. A wizard learns spells through the power of his mind and can study an evil spell as easily as a good one. (Although I would agree that casting one specifically more than the other would shift his alignment.) A cleric is granted spells by his deity. A good deity isn't likely to hand out spells to raise undead to serve the living, just as an evil deity doesn't want some pansy of cleric going around promoting bunnies and sunshine everywhere.

I.e., if you want to decide for yourself how good or evil to be, you'd better be depending on yourself for your magic. Deities tend to expect a bit more deference in return for their assistance.


Studpuffin wrote:
It might be best if the rules for alignment and spells worked for all casters exactly the same way. I don't quite understand why a wizard who is evil would be able to cast a good spell and a cleric of an evil diety could not.

Cleric's dont really get to choose what spells they can cast. They are granted their spells by their gods. The god could even refuse them cure spells if it chose to.

Wizards just have to be able to scribe the spell into their spell books.

Example: Radiation laced bullet(evil spells)

A law enforcement officer(cleric)wants some radiation bullets, but he has to go through the department head(deity). The department head says they are inhumane(evil), so his request(prayer) for that bullets(spell) fails.

A wizard(freelancer/assassin/bounty hunter/etc)has no one to answer to, so he can use all the radiation laced bullets he wants to.

PS: I know I used an evil example instead of a good one, but the same logic applies.

Andoran

concerro wrote:


Cleric's dont really get to choose what spells they can cast. They are granted their spells by their gods. The god could even refuse them cure spells if it chose to.

Then lets not let clerics choose their spells at all. We'll let the deities just decide it all. :p

Seriously, don't they have to answer to the cosmos? Even if the spells are drawn from a different source in FLUFF, why don't we integrate the rules for them? Is there a crunch reason why anyone should be able to cast a spell different than their alignment?


Lathiira wrote:

This is covered a bit in the Book of Exalted Deeds, but I never agreed with that book's answer. IIRC, the BoED says 'yes, casting Evil spells will ultimately make you evil' and the reverse, going on about cosmic balance and whatnot.

My personal answer: a spell is a tool. Tools aren't evil-the person using the tool might be.

Depends on the spell.

I do say that casting an [Alignment] spell will give you [Alignment] points. The evil/good etc rubs off on you. The amount of evil points (I'll just use evil from now on, but I mean all alignments) depends on the spell.

Say casting protection from evil gives you one good point. Your average nice guy has a couple of thousand good points, it takes several thousands to turn an evil person neutral and a neutral person good.

Not that I'd keep track of points, it's just to give you the perspective.

At the same time, you get alignment points for your intentions. Casting protection from evil as an evil wizard so you can take over the murderers' guild to more effectively murder people for profit will give you a couple of good points for using magic targeting evil creatures - and hundreds of evil points for doing evil.

Protection spells are nearly insignificant. Summoning magic is a bit worse, because you're willing to use evil creatures - which is not only worse than protection stuff in general, but they'll also probably influence you, openly or subtly.

Then there's the big stuff. Creating undead is definetly evil, since it is a grave insult against life, nature, the natural way, and all that.

But in one thing we're clear: Intent and execution will weigh in much more heavily than [alignment]


Studpuffin wrote:


Then lets not let clerics choose their spells at all. We'll let the deities just decide it all. :p

Seriously, don't they have to answer to the cosmos?

Exactly. And that's why good gods cannot grant evil spells. They're Good. The universe doesn't let them get away with evil spells.

Andoran

Studpuffin wrote:
Then lets not let clerics choose their spells at all. We'll let the deities just decide it all. :p

I actually miss that from older editions of the game. I liked when clerics had spheres of magic to pick from.

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