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What is evil?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


Hi,

Cheasy thread title, I know, but I was reading another post discussibg what to do with a NE character, and I didn't want to derail it.

There are some different assumptions, I have tried to stereotype it to make the discussion easier.

Pure Evil: some kind of desire that everything in the world is filled with pain, sorrow, and despair. The world should be Hell

Evildom: a general tendency to promote evil, but not a complete overthrow of the world as we know it

Psychopath: will do anything to anyone to satisfy his every desire

Sociopath: the evil individual will conform to social norms, will not assasinate on a whim, and only in extreme cases do severe bodily harm to others to promote his own agenda.

Holy Warrior/terrorist: serves a greater cause that allows him to bypass normal morality, and kill sentient humaniod beings for his cause

Cynic pragmatist: own needs should in theory not mean ursupation of others, but in real life, that is just how it is.

The question to you is: how many of theese are classifiable as evil in Pathfinder?

I have read arguments on the board like: "that race is evil, it is ok to kill them" . That sends cold shivers down my spine, since it is the Nazi argument.

Evil is what evil does... But then there are demons and devils... And undead... These are in my game terms somewhere between Pure Evil, Evildom, Psychopath, and severe forms of Sociopath (in the above terminology, not clinical)

Chip in.


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

If you search for "evil", I'm sure you'll find roughly a billion threads each with a thousand posts talking about this.

Liberty's Edge

Cheapy wrote:
If you search for "evil", I'm sure you'll find roughly a billion threads each with a thousand posts talking about this.

This.

IMO, there is no one answer. Evil is just evil, and can be any or all of the things you list, or something else entirely.

The distinction that should probably be made is between Supernatural Evil (Undead or Evil Outsiders), which is inherent and effectively unredemable (Pure Evil in your lexicon), and Mundane Evil which covers all the rest, but is a choice to some degree, and can always (in theory, if not practice) be redeemed to at least some degree.


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What is evil? EVIL IS BAD!

/THREAD

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Are Nazis Evil?


In my campaigns, "Evil" is applied to behavior of intelligent beings that show no regard for the preservation of life.

Things that eat other intelligent beings are not always, necessarily, "Evil" in my campaign setting. Particularly creatures who consider humans or other human like creatures, food. There are, as an example, goblin tribes that eat humans, and they are just as likely to be good as evil, depending on their intentions (eat you, because they are hungry - not evil, or kill you because they hate you - evil).

There are kings that keep their subjects in abject poverty, but do not want to see their subjects killed (by their subordinates) without a just cause (say the execution of a traitor to the kingdom, or a captured villain who undergoes a trial, even if that trial seems unfair to the players). These sorts of rulers, in my campaigns, are typically Lawful Neutral, or even sometimes Lawful Good (and typically when they are "Good" they are acting like story elements fulfilling the "ignorant to his peoples plight" sort of ruler, not an "Evil" ruler, just a uniformed one).

"Evil" monsters and NPC(s) in my campaigns are called evil, because they have a plan, and the fulfillment of that plan involves the necessary killing of other intelligent beings.

I try to avoid the ideas of "Mental Instability" only out of preference to my tastes for the kinds of games I like to run, and I will never, absolutely never, allow a player to play a character who is a "Psychopath” for any reason. There is just no place for that in my games. I have used villains who are considered "Crazy" by the standards of the population of the game environment, but these villains are "Evil" because they are "Evil" not because they are mentally deranged (though they may, in fact, appear that way in the game). My justification for this is that the cultures of the campaign setting are not as evolved as our real world culture and the understanding of mental disease to the degree necessary to differentiate between people who have real brain disorders (chemical or physiological) and people who just want to kill their neighbor in order to take their neighbors stuff, does not exist.

Edit: I want to add, and try not to start an off-topic argument, that such comments as "Are Nazis evil?" is not germane to a discussion of a Dungeons and Dragons (Pathfinder) game. Real World people are not “Evil” because of who or what they are, but, generally from the perspective of the society at large, they are called “Evil” because of what they do. In our favorite fantasy games, some demons and dragons are “Evil” (and there is a much larger list, I just chose demons and dragons as an example) even if through the course of their existence (their “lives” in the campaign setting) they never harm anyone at all.


Gorbacz wrote:
Are Nazis Evil?

on a megadeth rating, less so than Stalin or Mao


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In RPG terms evil comes under the the definition of "guys who its ok to kill because they are not good"

Literally. You'll notice generally speaking there are few explorations of Orc culture, cause if you realized that that orc barbarian who is mapped on either a germanic raider or a viking raider is stealing food from a village for his starving kids (because his tribe has been ousted from the nice places to live by humans) it becomes a game that's vastly different from D&D.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Leaving the toilet seat up?


I'm sorry, but everyone who would argue with each other and get incensed with other people's positions are busy in the slavery/thievery thread.

No 2000 post thread for you.


Evil is the difference between two perspectives--that's all. Further arguments are based around justifying one's own perspective over another's.


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It never ceases to amaze me that a discussion about how a game is played, which should be a simple discussion, can turn into a discussion about the "Real World" and what it means to live in it, which is never a simple discussion.


It's funny that you bring up this thread idea. I was actually discussing this with my friend yesterday and we came to the conclusion that everyone thinks of evil differently and how it can be role-played in table top RPGs. We were discussing how to run an evil campaign filled with evil characters.

The things we both agreed upon:
*It's a decision to be made by each individual group at their own table.
*It takes a mature group to play an evil campaign.
*It would need back and forth discussion within the group to come to a consensus.
*The group decides beforehand what constitutes each alignment with the GM having the final vote to break any ties. This way everyone can agree on what is evil, neutral, and good for their table and everyone follows the same "guidelines" as opposed to the individual interpretations.

We both agreed that if we either of us was to run an evil campaign this is how we'd put the game forward to the group. We'd also ask for a small back-story from each member and what their individual motivations are in order to further their individual stories in the course of the campaign. Doing this stuff would make it easier to role-play the characters and allow for better immersion into the story and campaign.

Now others may or may not agree on what I've written here and they are all free to their own opinions. I'm sure other groups do things much differently, but I wanted to get out my ideas to see if they'd help with the discussion and the topic at hand.


A long time ago, I was listening to the radio. And this story came on.

And a woman told this story.

When she was young, she said, her parents sent her to America. They cried and hugged her as she left, because she had very little opportunity in her country, and may have starved to death. And so she left then, and came to America.

Another woman picked her up at the airport, and took her to her home. And she said, "I own you now," and treated her as a slave. She took sharp objects and stabbed the girl's feet repeatedly when she disobeyed. She would rub her eyes with peppers hotter than jalapenos. The girl's feet would swell and become infected, and she could barely walk and could barely see.

Other times, the woman would wound her, then rub hot peppers in those wounds. The girl must leave them there, she said, or the girl would be punished again.

One day, the girl "messed up too many times, you worthless child" and the woman snarled at her, "Leave! Leave now! If you come back here, I will kill you!" And knowing that she meant it, the girl left.

Another little girl in the neighborhood ran into her, and her face turned pale. She grasped the other's hand, and brought her straight to her own home where she showed her guest to her parents. The mother began crying, and the father's fists tightened, his face went pale then white.

The young girl, now a woman, still can barely walk, and she has trouble seeing, among other problems and issues that cannot be named in this forum because of the type she suffered.

That is evil.

In the real world, those who stand against it we call heroes. In fantasy, we call them paladins, heroes, crusaders.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Tales Subscriber
Necromancer wrote:
Evil is the difference between two perspectives--that's all. Further arguments are based around justifying one's own perspective over another's.

Trollllll!...at least I hope so! In any case this is certainly not the case in RPG's like Pathfinder. In Pathfinder and D&D and every other RPG I have ever played "Evil" is a real thing. There are irredeemable creatures and races that are EVIL to the core. That may not be the case in the real world, although some sociopaths make me feel it could be, but it is in RPG land.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Philil Zimbardo talks about what is evil.

*WARNING*There are some images shown that could be disturbing to some. You can skip over them, as they are all in a single and small section of the talk. He even warns everyone right before he shows the short slide show.

This is a good discussion on what makes people evil and how people can become heroes in the face of evil.

Scarab Sages

What is evil?

Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more....


This topic has been beat to death, through those beatings a few gems have fallen from the corpse's pockets.

Here's a few links that pretty much sum up and clarify any and all arguments about alignment, both as philosophical stances and as mechanical pieces of a game world-

Alignment described as modern-day philosophies.

Alignment described from external choice-perspectives

Alignment as a mechanical construct within a setting (broad-scope. Pay attention to the Socialnomicon)

I've never seen any articles that break things down better.


Necromancer wrote:
Evil is the difference between two perspectives--that's all. Further arguments are based around justifying one's own perspective over another's.

Spoken like a necromancer :)

Seriously though, what you're describing is called Moral Relativism, and it is a provably flawed concept. The difference between two perspectives is usually called "cultural bias", and can influence a concept of Evil and Good, but does not define it.


I played a NE thief years ago. He saw little wrong with taking what he wanted, nor killing in cold blood from time to time, sometimes in a brutal fashion. But he was not so foolish as to believe that it could be done on a whim. Nobody wants to fight a mob, nor be be so afraid to sleep for fear of their life. His allies were not evil, and they rarely saw his worst side. A CG dwarven fighter even became somewhat of a friend to him. Sometimes the weight of the chip on his shoulder was lightened, and once or twice he even risked his neck for that dwarf.

Grand Lodge

Bender covered it in Futurama fairly well...

"How can I continue to live my life if i can't tell good from evil?"

"Eh, they're both fine choices, whatever floats your boat...*blows smoke ring*"

But in all seriousness, I don't particularly care. Evil is a brand for beings of thought and concept, rather than mortals, unless we're looking from a religious standpoint. Undead are "evil" because they are powered by negative energy, which by definition causes death and horror (unless they are sentient, in which case, they no longer fall under this branch). Outsiders are evil because they are either made out of the very embodiment of evil itself, as a theological concept or idea, so they are "evil" the same way humans are "carbon-based life-forms."

But any mortal being with the ability to make decisions can be whatever, do whatever, etc., and ergo, assigning them alignments are...well, difficult is putting it mildly. Just look at all the threads like this that are so vehement and make everyone on all sides feel dirty...


Please keep in mind that in fantasy RPGs, morality is not an abstract concept, it is a fundamental force within the cosmology. There aren't shades of gray, there is no difference in opinion on what's evil. A detect evil spell detects evil. If a vegan casts detect evil, they don't necessarily detect all meat-eaters as evil. They'd probably detect the murdering cannibals as evil, but not the paladin eating a steak. This fundamental misunderstanding is the root of the argument, at least functionally. I'm not saying that the morality debate is pointless or without merit, but from a mechanical, game-oriented standpoint, evil is as real as the fiends who do it.

Now, please note that the fundamental assumptions that most RPG systems utilize to determine evil is a default Western society conceptualization. The most basic, fundamental question to determine evil in a fantasy RPG might be: is the intention to harm innocents/non-evil sentient creatures? If so, it's inherently evil. The intention to harm evil creatures (killing orcs and goblins) isn't inherently evil. Adding on layers, is the intention to cause unnecessary harm to sentient creatures? Most would agree that torturing an orc or goblin simply for the sake of torturing it would be considered evil; the rules seem to agree as torture is considered an evil act.

Contributor

The Dread Pirate Hurley wrote:

Please keep in mind that in fantasy RPGs, morality is not an abstract concept, it is a fundamental force within the cosmology. There aren't shades of gray, there is no difference in opinion on what's evil. A detect evil spell detects evil. If a vegan casts detect evil, they don't necessarily detect all meat-eaters as evil. They'd probably detect the murdering cannibals as evil, but not the paladin eating a steak. This fundamental misunderstanding is the root of the argument, at least functionally. I'm not saying that the morality debate is pointless or without merit, but from a mechanical, game-oriented standpoint, evil is as real as the fiends who do it.

Now, please note that the fundamental assumptions that most RPG systems utilize to determine evil is a default Western society conceptualization. The most basic, fundamental question to determine evil in a fantasy RPG might be: is the intention to harm innocents/non-evil sentient creatures? If so, it's inherently evil. The intention to harm evil creatures (killing orcs and goblins) isn't inherently evil. Adding on layers, is the intention to cause unnecessary harm to sentient creatures? Most would agree that torturing an orc or goblin simply for the sake of torturing it would be considered evil; the rules seem to agree as torture is considered an evil act.

The trouble is, for all the non-abstractness of evil in a fantasy universe, the judgement call for "What is evil?" varies from GM to GM. If cannibalism is defined as evil, then one GM will write "Evil" on the character who bites off a hangnail and fails to spit it out while another will only write it on the character who eats his own kind by preference and turns up his nose at any other form of sustenance. And this doesn't even get into the question of the lifelong cannibal from the tribe of cannibals who repents his wickedness, not because he ever thought cannibalism was wicked--he didn't--but because he wanted to scandalize his parents and nothing would scandalize them more than becoming a tofu-eating monk. He also had the other monks cast an atonement spell, declaring him thereby not only non-evil but a non-cannibal plus a virgin as well.

As for the paladin eating a steak, what if it was from a talking cow, produced by a druid with an Awaken spell? What if it was from a beautiful princess who was turned into a dumb cow by an evil wizard's spell? What if it was from a dumb cow that had been a human in a previous life? What if it wasn't any of these things, but a tricksy bard used some ventriloquism and illusions to convince him it was? Woo! I am the ghost of the beautiful princess who was turned into a cow! You were supposed to save me but instead you ate me! You suck as a paladin! Woo!

What if the paladin, too stupid to realize this is a trick, goes and kills the evil wizard who turned the princess into a cow--actually Old McDonald, the innocent farmer? Is this an evil deed? Is the paladin still a paladin? Does he now detect as evil?

Yes, we can all answer these questions, but not everyone is going to agree on the proper answer, and therefore the question of "What is evil?" remains up in the air.


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Tandriniel wrote:
I have read arguments on the board like: "that race is evil, it is ok to kill them". That sends cold shivers down my spine, since it is the Nazi argument.

This is the kind of slipshod thinking that drives me insane and usually ropes me into saying something. You cannot take the term "race" in RPGs to mean the same thing as "race" when it comes to humans. Because, we're not talking about races, we're talking about species (or sub-species, if you listen to some people talk about the fertility of half-orcs and half-elves).

Why does it matter, you ask? Because they're not necessarily built the same--their genetics and brain function may be entirely different. In the real world, we conflate all humans to the same level of equality. We do this for a number of reasons, but primarily from an ethic of reciprocity, in my opinion. All of us implicitly agree to the social contract, "I won't try to kill/enslave/kidnap/rob/rape/eat you and you won't try to kill/enslave/kidnap/rob/rape/eat me". But we don't equate a human murderer with the rest of humanity: they have shown they have broken the contract and they're no longer abiding by an ethic of reciprocity.

But now we're talking about a separate species altogether (goblin, orc, drow). And as such, you have to treat that species as your world has generated it. Culturally, does it believe in an ethic of reciprocity with other species? Genetically, can it even understand such things? If it understands such things, can it overcome, by willpower, the primal drives of it's genetics?

There are several imaginings, obviously:

1) Cultural - This is a species much like any other species (halfling, dwarf, elf, gnome) and can be included in the affairs of the good species, but only after it has achieved enlightment and respect for other species. We just need to educate them better and influence their culture. Of course, the fact that no such educated, enlightened tribes, nations, or even small communities of such species have ever been found tends to argue against this position. If you want this sort of specie, then you will want to address this in your world.

2) Cultural and genetic - This is a species irrationally opposed to the goodly species. Oftentimes this is presented as a direct result of their lack of empathy and compassion, or their belief in their own superiority (perhaps deity-driven). I see the drow, abboleth, and other intelligent, but dark-minded races this way. They have the arrogance of superiority (narcissism) and an absence of pity or mercy. The very intelligent ones among them will have philosophized and rationalized their elitism in a very pragmatic utilitarian way. "We are as superior to the [insert goodly specie] as the [insert goodly specie] is to the cow. As such they are our natural prey, tool, and beasts of burden." You might raise one of these specie from infancy in a goodly society and find that in spite of the love and care you give the individual, it turns into a cold-hearted mercenary at best or a serial killer at worst.

3) Genetic - This is a species that is not intelligent enough or doesn't possess enough willpower to overcome its baser instincts. They are like vicious animals, without empathy, and with cunning. Imagine if we took a hyena and gave him just enough cunning so that he could figure out how to best capture and eat humans; how to inflict pain, because it finds the screams of its victims funny. But not enough to see the consequences fully through (that it could also be the victim of such behavior) or to care or to overcome it's drive even if it does see and does care. You would then have this species.

Of the normal causes of evil (nothing divine or magical), I can't think of any others. All three imaginings are fine, if that's what you want in your world. #1 above is the one I consider the least likely for these "evil species", but is the only one worthy of giving a chance at redemption. I have yet to see a species such as this giving, in any non-aberrational way, evidence that it possesses empathy or wisdom or even a moral core, in any of the stories that I read. Treating them like they're criminals (under who's law? by what right are they judged?) that can be rehabilitated only places unrealistic restrictions on your ability to effectively prosecute these evil beings fully.

You might argue, "Sure, but the standards of goodness are not just inconvenient, they're tough."

To which I would respond, "True, but being stupid can be suicidal. Let's be both smart and good and avoid making mistakes."

Liberty's Edge

@jupistar:

The issue there, with those justifications, is simple: Some sociopaths are nice, friendly people and valuable members of society. A sociopath (as it's usually defined) is someone who lacks exactly the traits you're talking about, so by saying it's okay to kill thinking beings without those traits you're coming very close to advocating a similar response to a real human group...which is less than good.

You're also arguing that the non-human races in D&D differ from humans not only physically, but are also on some level fundamentally different psychologically, which both the fiction about and the roleplaying of those races (both done by human beings) tend to not reflect. Culturally different? Sure. Less empathy? In some cases. More agressive tendencies? Sure. Fundamentally different? No.

You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world.
.
.
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My personal preference is that it's, as you put it, a combination of culture and genetics, so that it's possible (but not easy) to take a Drow, or Orc, or Goblin child and properly acculturate it. Or for a lone Orc to rebel agaqinst it's kind's typical behavior. But most of them? Still evil, and as in need of killing as humans who commit the same crimes.

Of course, both I and my players have few qualms about killing evil humans, so this is less of a problem for us than it might be for some others.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

@jupistar:

The issue there, with those justifications, is simple: Some sociopaths are nice, friendly people and valuable members of society. A sociopath (as it's usually defined) is someone who lacks exactly the traits you're talking about, so by saying it's okay to kill thinking beings without those traits you're coming very close to advocating a similar response to a real human group...which is less than good.

I hear you, but nice and friendly are an illusion if they have no empathy or compassion. It's a robot behaving the way they've been taught is appropriate, not a genuine goodwill. The difference, of course, is that they're humans and you can't prove that they're any different than you or I. As such, they've bought into the social contract. EoR.

I'm saying these other species (in cases #2 and #3) are incapable of buying into the social contract for, primarily genetic, but also cultural reasons. I mean, something makes them evil. If one such individual is 99.99% likely to be evil, there's something wrong with the species, not just the culture. The culture is most likely a reflection of the natural inclination of these beings.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
You're also arguing that the non-human races in D&D differ from humans not only physically, but are also on some level fundamentally different psychologically, which both the fiction about and the roleplaying of those races (both done by human beings) tend to not reflect. Culturally different? Sure. Less empathy? In some cases. More agressive tendencies? Sure. Fundamentally different? No.

Now this I have to completely disagree with. Drow are clearly, in my opinion, seen as being genetically-similar sociopaths - delighting in cruelty and interested in only their own wants and needs. Goblins have huge heads and mouths, are seen as being voracious eaters, and delight in cruelty, as well. Orcs are seen as savage beasts below barbarian status with a penchant for cruelty, dominance, aggression, and a love of fighting. Simply because see extremes in humans that are similar to these archetypes doesn't mean that they're fundamentally the same. Not by a long shot.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world.

Among humans it doesn't work out that way! But, you also don't see dead coming back to life or demons coming through rifts in space. The "ring kind of hollow" argument is probably true, but that's the point of writing what I did. It's specious to assume that our psychologies/physiologies are the same. It's specious enough to assume it about human races to extend that paradigm of thinking to other races that clearly don't think or behave as humans do.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
My personal preference is that it's, as you put it, a combination of culture and genetics, so that it's possible (but not easy) to take a Drow, or Orc, or Goblin child and properly acculturate it. Or for a lone Orc to rebel agaqinst it's kind's typical behavior. But most of them? Still evil, and as in need of killing as humans who commit the same crimes.

That's cool. I can appreciate that. To each their own, right? My goal was to simply address this notion that if I have a rabid dog and I think, "Here's a blighter that needs to cease functioning for the good of the world."; that if I kill that dog, I'm not evil. The same is true about a goblin (genetic) or orc/drow (cultural + genetic), I'm doing it for the good of everyone else. Letting it live would be wrong-headed and possibly suicidal or homicidal.

I mean, obviously we're not going to leave an unattended goblin anywhere near children, right? If not, why not? Because we know what they can and will do (but we're not allowed to act on it). But if we're not going to leave it unattended, does that mean every goblin we find requires supervision? How does that work? If not, then that goblin can find those children on their own. It's a slippery slippery slope once you decide to give them the same moral status as the sapient species.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Of course, both I and my players have few qualms about killing evil humans, so this is less of a problem for us than it might be for some others.

Liberty's Edge

jupistar wrote:
I hear you, but nice and friendly are an illusion if they have no empathy or compassion. It's a robot behaving the way they've been taught is appropriate, not a genuine goodwill.

Not necessarily. Sociopathy (or whatever you want to call it) is a continuum, it's not an either/or it's more like a stat. Rated between 1 and 10 with the average person having a 3, say, and people call someone with an 8 or higher a sociopath...but if he's really an 8, he might well care about certain specific individuals, just not people in general.

A 10 doesn't care...except maybe intellectually. And that's the thing, even without any real empathy, a sociopath is still a person, not a robot, and can care about things intellectually or aesthetically that they are incapable of feeling on an emotional level. It's perfectly possible for such an individual to care more about social justice than you or I do, in a purely detached fashion, just for example.

jupistar wrote:
The difference, of course, is that they're humans and you can't prove that they're any different than you or I. As such, they've bought into the social contract. EoR.

Do we really have a right to kill people (or creatures) for thinking wrong? I'd say no, and that means that it doesn't matter why a sociopathic individual or creature obeys the rules and is a good citizen, just that they are.

And we are rapidly approaching the point where such people may be provably different from normal people...I'd really rather not advocate doing anything to an entire group of people because they think differently. That's...not gonna go anywhere good.

jupistar wrote:
Now this I have to completely disagree with. Drow are clearly, in my opinion, seen as being genetically-similar sociopaths - delighting in cruelty and interested in only their own wants and needs.

To some degree, sure. But in a very human and understandable way.

And if you read Shensen's background in the NPC Guide, there's some clear evidence for there being ways to redeem them (even if the one used was a bit hardcore).

jupistar wrote:
Among humans it doesn't work out that way! But, you also don't see dead coming back to life or demons coming through rifts in space. The "ring kind of hollow" argument is probably true, but that's the point of writing what I did. It's specious to assume that our psychologies/physiologies are the same. It's specious enough to assume it about human races to extend that paradigm of thinking to other races that clearly don't think or behave as humans do.

True, but generally it's less immersion breaking to change the laws of physics than the law that govern human (or sapient creature) behavior. At least in my experience.

Even something as physically alien and magical as a Dragon is expected to have a motive we can understand and empathize with to some degree, or it breaks immersion. They may have some human traits taken to extremes, but those traits are still fundamentally human.

jupistar wrote:
That's cool. I can appreciate that. To each their own, right? My goal was to simply address this notion that if I have a rabid dog and I think, "Here's a blighter that needs to cease functioning for the good of the world."; that if I kill that dog, I'm not evil. The same is true about a goblin (genetic) or orc/drow (cultural + genetic), I'm doing it for the good of everyone else. Letting it live would be wrong-headed and possibly suicidal or homicidal.

Depends on circumstances, and whether the creature in question seems honestly repentant and willing to change. If not, off with their heads. Not because they're a rabid dog, but because they're a person guilty of horrible things (which, let's face it, they really are).

jupistar wrote:
I mean, obviously we're not going to leave an unattended goblin anywhere near children, right? If not, why not? Because we know what they can and will do (but we're not allowed to act on it). But if we're not going to leave it unattended, does that mean every goblin we find requires supervision? How does that work?

Up to you! Sounds like an interesting plot hook if you want to pursue it. That said, there is nothing obligating you to let an adult being who is complicit in child-murder (as any Goblin you find living with other goblins is) live. You can just kill them. Same as you would members of a degenerate human family who did the same things.

jupistar wrote:
If not, then that goblin can find those children on their own. It's a slippery slippery slope once you decide to give them the same moral status as the sapient species.

The slippery-slope fallacy is a logical fallacy. Hence the name.

This is only a problem if your PCs wouldn't kill an entire tribe (sans children) of primitive humans guilty of doing the same things as your monsters (Hint: If your monsters are actually appropriately monstrous, I'll bet they would. I know mine would.)


Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
I hear you, but nice and friendly are an illusion if they have no empathy or compassion. It's a robot behaving the way they've been taught is appropriate, not a genuine goodwill.

Not necessarily. Sociopathy (or whatever you want to call it) is a continuum, it's not an either/or it's more like a stat. Rated between 1 and 10 with the average person having a 3, say, and people call someone with an 8 or higher a sociopath...but if he's really an 8, he might well care about certain specific individuals, just not people in general.

A 10 doesn't care...except maybe intellectually. And that's the thing, even without any real empathy, a sociopath is still a person, not a robot, and can care about things intellectually or aesthetically that they are incapable of feeling on an emotional level. It's perfectly possible for such an individual to care more about social justice than you or I do, in a purely detached fashion, just for example.

jupistar wrote:
The difference, of course, is that they're humans and you can't prove that they're any different than you or I. As such, they've bought into the social contract. EoR.

Do we really have a right to kill people (or creatures) for thinking wrong? I'd say no, and that means that it doesn't matter why a sociopathic individual or creature obeys the rules and is a good citizen, just that they are.

And we are rapidly approaching the point where such people may be provably different from normal people...I'd really rather not advocate doing anything to an entire group of people because they think differently. That's...not gonna go anywhere good.

I think we're actually more in agreement here than disagreement. My point is that humans are altogether in this "social contract" thing. We have evidence that humans are sapient and can and will engage in EoR even if their sociopathy is high.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
Now this I have to completely disagree with. Drow are clearly, in my opinion, seen as being genetically-similar sociopaths - delighting in cruelty and interested in only their own wants and needs.
To some degree, sure. But in a very human and understandable way.

But the point was to show that there was a genetic link to their behavior. For every member of the drow society to be so well-adjusted (ha!) to their society then they seemingly must have a genetic component.

If you want to deny it, I won't complain. Again, see #1. If that's your goal when you envision your world, then I'm glad you found something you enjoy. It's not mine, and I don't think I'm Hitler (thanks OP) for having a view that the kind of Drow in my world should be exterminated (unless I happen to stumble across a Drizzt or a Shensen, and even then I'm making damned sure I don't let them out of my sight until I get a cleric or paladin to give me a reading, first).

Deadmanwalking wrote:
And if you read Shensen's background in the NPC Guide...

Yeah, I've not seen the guide. What was the basis for Shensen's (female?) conversion? And while it may give some evidence, one writer's background for one drow among the multitude sounds rather aberrational.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
Deadmanwalking wrote:
You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world.
Among humans it doesn't work out that way! But, you also don't see dead coming back to life or demons coming through rifts in space. The "ring kind of hollow" argument is probably true, but that's the point of writing what I did. It's specious to assume that our psychologies/physiologies are the same. It's specious enough to assume it about human races to extend that paradigm of thinking to other races that clearly don't think or behave as humans do.

True, but generally it's less immersion breaking to change the laws of physics than the law that govern human (or sapient creature) behavior. At least in my experience.

Even something as physically alien and magical as a Dragon is expected to have a motive we can understand and empathize with to some degree, or it breaks immersion. They may have some human traits taken to extremes, but those traits are still fundamentally human.

I suppose YMMV here. I find the notion of alien psychologies to be fascinating... especially my wife's :P. I understand that there are fundamental physiological and psychological differences between us. Males have, genetically it seems, entirely different wants and needs than do females, and as a result, we see the world entirely differently. In many ways, our connection seems like an illusion sometimes. We agree on a POV and then analyze it and find we agree for entirely different reasons. It's not so strange to extend that concept to an even more disconnected physiology and psychology.

But, I think maybe I wasn't clear. Of course you find nature winning out over nurture in real life. Everytime a pit bull goes nuts and bites off some little girl's face in spite of the love and training they get from their owners. Every time a horse gets spooked and bucks it's rider on it's way back to the barn. It's when nurture wins out over nature that we should be impressed. It's just humans and the animals they've been able to adequately domesticate that prove the exception to the rule. I would suspect more creatures are not able to be domesticated than can.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
That's cool. I can appreciate that. To each their own, right? My goal was to simply address this notion that if I have a rabid dog and I think, "Here's a blighter that needs to cease functioning for the good of the world."; that if I kill that dog, I'm not evil. The same is true about a goblin (genetic) or orc/drow (cultural + genetic), I'm doing it for the good of everyone else. Letting it live would be wrong-headed and possibly suicidal or homicidal.
Depends on circumstances, and whether the creature in question seems honestly repentant and willing to change. If not, off with their heads. Not because they're a rabid dog, but because they're a person guilty of horrible things (which, let's face it, they really are).

But my point was that some of these species, in my world, aren't able to change in such fundamental ways. It's not that I don't want to give them a second chance, but rather that either, a) they can't change and giving them a second chance is a poor risk-investment, or b) they are so unlikely to change that giving them a second chance is a poor risk-investment. I offer the goblin a chance to change his ways and he smilingly says, "Yes, me good goblin. You can trust me!" You and I both know I can't and the DM is smiling at my dilemma.

I also like having races in my game where I don't have to constantly worry about stuff like, "Well, do I trot the whole damned tribe of surrendered goblins back for trial? What crime did they commit? I can't just leave them here to begin raiding nearby farms, what do I do with them all?"

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
I mean, obviously we're not going to leave an unattended goblin anywhere near children, right? If not, why not? Because we know what they can and will do (but we're not allowed to act on it). But if we're not going to leave it unattended, does that mean every goblin we find requires supervision? How does that work?
Up to you! Sounds like an interesting plot hook if you want to pursue it. That said, there is nothing obligating you to let an adult being who is complicit in child-murder (as any Goblin you find living with other goblins is) live. You can just kill them. Same as you would members of a degenerate human family who did the same things.

Now you're saying that goblins are guilty of child-murder by associating with other goblins that do so. You're implicitly stating that all goblins other than newborn goblins or young goblins are deserving of death, anyway. I don't necessarily hold with the notion that any creature is "deserving" of death. "Deserving" sounds and looks very much like "revenge" when I see it play out. I tend to think of it more as "needing" death, because no other option is appropriate. Kind of like stomping on a black widow.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
If not, then that goblin can find those children on their own. It's a slippery slippery slope once you decide to give them the same moral status as the sapient species.
The slippery-slope fallacy is a logical fallacy. Hence the name.

Sure. :)

But I used that term loosely. I'm not presenting a false dichotomy here. Either you give moral status to goblins or you don't. If you do, then you take everything that goes with it. You should automatically grant them the same respect and rights you grant any other moral creature. This is a logical chain of reasoning. Once you do that, you can't "punish" a goblin until he actually commits a crime that you can prove and that you then have judged before a rightful member of civilization's law structure (let's not forget this issue that the goblin does not actively have a vote in the society under who's law you would subject him). I wrote a lengthy post on this subject in another thread. The "slippery slope" was only used for rhetorical purposes. Giving moral status to a goblin that meets my #2 or #3 definition isn't getting on a downward slope, it's jumping off a cliff without a parachute. You ask for so many more complications that you and your DM are unlikely prepared for and will probably just gloss over anyway.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
This is only a problem if your PCs wouldn't kill an entire tribe (sans children) of primitive humans guilty of doing the same things as your monsters (Hint: If your monsters are actually appropriately monstrous, I'll bet they would. I know mine would.)

So, you're saying that a tribe of primitive humans that engaged in monstrous behavior should all, to a man, die? Without individual trial or individual judgment because they're all guilty by association? What about the women (some of them will be strong and possibly have contributed, some may be weak and are only there because they have no understanding of options)? And at what age are the children exempt?

It's easier for me to kill a tribe of goblins indiscriminately, in my world, because my goblins are inherently different than the species of men, elves, dwarves, et. al. I don't have to worry so much about moral quandries here. Dealing with the human tribe is where I might give some moral ambiguity to a story to challenge my players.

Liberty's Edge

jupistar wrote:
I think we're actually more in agreement here than disagreement. My point is that humans are altogether in this "social contract" thing. We have evidence that humans are sapient and can and will engage in EoR even if their sociopathy is high.

True enough. :)

jupistar wrote:

But the point was to show that there was a genetic link to their behavior. For every member of the drow society to be so well-adjusted (ha!) to their society then they seemingly must have a genetic component.

If you want to deny it, I won't complain. Again, see #1. If that's your goal when you envision your world, then I'm glad you found something you enjoy. It's not mine, and I don't think I'm Hitler (thanks OP) for having a view that the kind of Drow in my world should be exterminated (unless I happen to stumble across a Drizzt or a Shensen, and even then I'm making damned sure I don't let them out of my sight until I get a cleric or paladin to give me a reading, first).

Oh, I don't dispute a genetic link (I dispte it being all-owerful, not it's existence). That wasn't the point I was making, the point was that their behavior was within the sphere of understood huan behavior, not something truly alien.

jupistar wrote:
Yeah, I've not seen the guide. What was the basis for Shensen's (female?) conversion? And while it may give some evidence, one writer's background for one drow among the multitude sounds rather aberrational.

She was a Drow child (implied to be very young) killed accidentally by a Druid, and then reincarnated (as a Half-elf, and with a note that this helped free her of the Drow's 'spiritual corruption') and raised by said Druid. Like I said, rather extreme.

jupistar wrote:
I suppose YMMV here. I find the notion of alien psychologies to be fascinating... especially my wife's :P. I understand that there are fundamental physiological and psychological differences between us. Males have, genetically it seems, entirely different wants and needs than do females, and as a result, we see the world entirely differently. In many ways, our connection seems like an illusion sometimes. We agree on a POV and then analyze it and find we agree for entirely different reasons. It's not so strange to extend that concept to an even more disconnected physiology and psychology.

Indeed. :) I'm actually a Psych Major, and have Aspergers Syndrome. I'm very use to exploring alternate perspectives on how and why people do things, and the differences in their reasoning or emotional responses that lead them there. I do it every day, and even enjoy doing it in my gaming as well.

I just also firmly believe that all sapient beings are definitionally moral actors, and are always capable of choosing. They may have the inherent urges to do all manner of things, some of them truly awful, but I truly believe they can always choose not to. Many won't, but all of them can.

jupistar wrote:
But, I think maybe I wasn't clear. Of course you find nature winning out over nurture in real life. Everytime a pit bull goes nuts and bites off some little girl's face in spite of the love and training they get from their owners. Every time a horse gets spooked and bucks it's rider on it's way back to the barn. It's when nurture wins out over nature that we should be impressed. It's just humans and the animals they've been able to adequately domesticate that prove the exception to the rule. I would suspect more creatures are not able to be domesticated than can.

Firstly, pit bulls basically never do that if they've actually been trained, the people who tend to buy pitbulls 'because they're badass' are just also the kind of people to then not train them and leave them alone with their children. I.e. Moronic a*@!~%+s.

And animals honestly seem to be as able to control their behavior as humans (a horse shying being the equivalent of a human jumping when you sneak up behind him and yell 'Boo!'), they've just on average got a lot less reason to restrain their momentary impulses than we do. The idea that animals are some sort of flesh robots operating entirely on irresistable instinctual drives is more-or-less completely discredited at this point.

But that's not even really the point because we're talking about sapient beings capable of abstract thought here, and that sort of precludes any antisocial impulses theuy possess actually being irresistible.

jupistar wrote:

But my point was that some of these species, in my world, aren't able to change in such fundamental ways. It's not that I don't want to give them a second chance, but rather that either, a) they can't change and giving them a second chance is a poor risk-investment, or b) they are so unlikely to change that giving them a second chance is a poor risk-investment. I offer the goblin a chance to change his ways and he smilingly says, "Yes, me good goblin. You can trust me!" You and I both know I can't and the DM is smiling at my dilemma.

I also like having races in my game where I don't have to constantly worry about stuff like, "Well, do I trot the whole damned tribe of surrendered goblins back for trial? What crime did they commit? I can't just leave them here to begin raiding nearby farms, what do I do with them all?"

Oh, I agree that it's extremely unlikely, but it's not impossible, which means that it can happen when and if, say, someone wants to play a Goblin PC. Or save and raise the Goblin children as their own.

jupistar wrote:
Now you're saying that goblins are guilty of child-murder by associating with other goblins that do so. You're implicitly stating that all goblins other than newborn goblins or young goblins are deserving of death, anyway. I don't necessarily hold with the notion that any creature is "deserving" of death. "Deserving" sounds and looks very much like "revenge" when I see it play out. I tend to think of it more as "needing" death, because no other option is appropriate. Kind of like stomping on a black widow.

I'm not comfortable with killing people (and let's face it, Goblins are by al reasonable standards people) because of things they may do in the future. Nobody can predict the future after all, and that way lies real horror.

I am very comfortable with holding people (particularly reasoning adults) accountable for their actions, which include pointing and laughing, or even just standing idly by while atrocities are commited (children being burned alive, just for example). Something basically all Goblins are guilty of, as even the most rudimentary investigation of most Goblin camps, or interrogation of any prisoners will reveal.

jupistar wrote:

Sure. :)

But I used that term loosely. I'm not presenting a false dichotomy here. Either you give moral status to goblins or you don't. If you do, then you take everything that goes with it. You should automatically grant them the same respect and rights you grant any other moral creature. This is a logical chain of reasoning. Once you do that, you can't "punish" a goblin until he actually commits a crime that you can prove and that you then have judged before a rightful member of civilization's law structure (let's not forget this issue that the goblin does not actively have a vote in the society under who's law you would subject him). I wrote a lengthy post on this subject in another thread. The "slippery slope" was only used for rhetorical purposes. Giving moral status to a goblin that meets my #2 or #3 definition isn't getting on a downward slope, it's jumping off a cliff without a parachute. You ask for so many more complications that you and your DM are unlikely prepared for and will probably just gloss over anyway.

Nope! Once you give a Goblin rights as a moral actor you have to treat it like you would a human being in the same situation. Whether that has anything to do with law, society, or any of the rest has nothing to do with whether he's a Human or a Goblin and everything to do with who's got a hold of him, where they've got a hold of him, and what the law may be there. And Humans fom, say, a barbaric tribe had nothing to do with the laws of the particular society either.

A CG Rogue with a practical streak may care nothing for the law, and simply execute either. So might a Paladin of Iomedae for that matter. A Paladin of Sarenrae may feel the same, or may cry for mercy. A LN magistrate may insist on arresting men and killing goblins in identical circumstances, but that's because the law (or the magistrate) discriminates, not necessarily because there's a moral distinction between the species.

jupistar wrote:
So, you're saying that a tribe of primitive humans that engaged in monstrous behavior should all, to a man, die? Without individual trial or individual judgment because they're all guilty by association? What about the women (some of them will be strong and possibly have contributed, some may be weak and are only there because they have no understanding of options)? And at what age are the children exempt?

Probably around 13 or less. Though those'll need to be watched carefully for signs of backlsliding into their tribe's degenerate ways. And bear in mind that, in Golarion at least, both humans and goblins have basically no sexism, and thus the women were probably as much a part of any atrocities as the men. You need Orcs and Gnolls for 'non-combatant females' to be likely to come into play.

As to whether they should die to a man? That's a judgment call on the PCs' part, but if we're talking the incestuous cannibal family ala Sawney Bean? I'd bet they kill 'em all. And you have to get pretty much that bad before you're approaching the depths most monstrous races according to Classic Monsters Revisited and other Golarion sources.

jupistar wrote:
It's easier for me to kill a tribe of goblins indiscriminately, in my world, because my goblins are inherently different than the species of men, elves, dwarves, et. al. I don't have to worry so much about moral quandries here. Dealing with the human tribe is where I might give some moral ambiguity to a story to challenge my players.

And the fact that it's easier? That's messed up. It seriously does encourage the idea that some thinking beings, distinguished by sight, are inherently completely okay to kill. That's not racist per se, but it's in the same line of thought.

Shadow Lodge

I think the "Humans are creatures of the social contract" thing has a clue about evil in that Humans with the fewest ties to the social contract tend to be evil in the sense they are alienated from such contract from a lack of ties i.e. classic 'going postal' or they believe they are superior and above the social contract, i.e. the Enron corporate types or the Nazis, and thus feel they can use manipulate the system for their own gains.
Evil also manifests, when the social contract breaks down and no one feels a need to obey any sort of rules. Look at Rwanda.

Good also comes out at the extremes, in that the 'Mother Theresa's', the Dali Lammas or even the family who hides jews from Nazi's etc tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Most people will go along (and I think most humans are neutral IRL) with the dominant ethos of society, and if an evil group, be it Nazis or perhaps evil corporate types take over most are too busy trying to survive/prosper and tend to take on the protective colaration, eventually becoming the mask.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

There's a related question that may help with this one.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
But the point was to show that there was a genetic link to their behavior. For every member of the drow society to be so well-adjusted (ha!) to their society then they seemingly must have a genetic component.
Oh, I don't dispute a genetic link (I dispute it being all-powerful, not it's existence). That wasn't the point I was making, the point was that their behavior was within the sphere of understood human behavior, not something truly alien.

It sounds like another point to conclude, except, re: this last sentence. The example I gave regarding my wife and that you followed up with regarding Asperger's is what I'm talking about. You have your own "thinking" different from mine which is different from my wife's. Just because we have the appearance of similar behavior and similar thoughts and similar goals, what's happening inside may be entirely different.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
Yeah, I've not seen the guide. What was the basis for Shensen's (female?) conversion? And while it may give some evidence, one writer's background for one drow among the multitude sounds rather aberrational.
She was a Drow child (implied to be very young) killed accidentally by a Druid, and then reincarnated (as a Half-elf, and with a note that this helped free her of the Drow's 'spiritual corruption') and raised by said Druid. Like I said, rather extreme.

"Spiritual corruption" was not on my list of 3 possible imaginings. I don't even really know what that means on any practical level, so I'll just say that it sounds inherent, the question only being, "At what point does the spirit become corrupt?"

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
I suppose YMMV here. I find the notion of alien psychologies to be fascinating... especially my wife's :P. I understand that there are fundamental physiological and psychological differences between us. Males have, genetically it seems, entirely different wants and needs than do females, and as a result, we see the world entirely differently. In many ways, our connection seems like an illusion sometimes. We agree on a POV and then analyze it and find we agree for entirely different reasons. It's not so strange to extend that concept to an even more disconnected physiology and psychology.

Indeed. :) I'm actually a Psych Major, and have Aspergers Syndrome. I'm very use to exploring alternate perspectives on how and why people do things, and the differences in their reasoning or emotional responses that lead them there. I do it every day, and even enjoy doing it in my gaming as well.

I just also firmly believe that all sapient beings are definitionally moral actors, and are always capable of choosing. They may have the inherent urges to do all manner of things, some of them truly awful, but I truly believe they can always choose not to. Many won't, but all of them can.

Yes and no. Sapient beings are considered wise, but even so, this does not make them moral actors. But even that's begging the question, "Does sentience equate to sapience?" It's a pretty common understanding that it doesn't. Ex. You tell a 3 year old human child, "Taking that cookie is wrong. It does not belong to you. Do not take the cookie." You then leave the room for awhile and come back to find the cookie eaten. What took place? A moral choice? Or a desire that was not overridden by a self-preservation (punishment/discipline avoidance) control? It is this sort of cognitive process that I attribute to goblins. A desire for or want of or delight in something that it cannot overcome with self-preservation control. Certainly not moral choices.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
But, I think maybe I wasn't clear. Of course you find nature winning out over nurture in real life. Everytime a pit bull goes nuts and bites off some little girl's face in spite of the love and training they get from their owners. Every time a horse gets spooked and bucks it's rider on it's way back to the barn. It's when nurture wins out over nature that we should be impressed. It's just humans and the animals they've been able to adequately domesticate that prove the exception to the rule. I would suspect more creatures are not able to be domesticated than can.

Firstly, pit bulls basically never do that if they've actually been trained, the people who tend to buy pitbulls 'because they're badass' are just also the kind of people to then not train them and leave them alone with their children. I.e. Moronic a&!$~@*s.

And animals honestly seem to be as able to control their behavior as humans (a horse shying being the equivalent of a human jumping when you sneak up behind him and yell 'Boo!'), they've just on average got a lot less reason to restrain their momentary impulses than we do. The idea that animals are some sort of flesh robots operating entirely on irresistable instinctual drives is more-or-less completely discredited at this point.

But that's not even really the point because we're talking about sapient beings capable of abstract thought here, and that sort of precludes any antisocial impulses theuy possess actually being irresistible.

Pit bulls: That's not true at all, regardless of what the pit bull propagandists want us to believe. Pit bulls are the most aggressive species of dog because they were bred that way. It's genetic. Some have better impulse control than others. But, would you trust a 5 year old child around any pit bull, especially one that *you* didn't train?

Horses: Again, you're missing the point. Nature does beat nurture in RL regularly. Impulse-restraint seems to stem from desensitization aided by reason or a stronger impulse (e.g. fear, lust, hatred) competing with the current one.

And we're not talking about sapient beings, but sentient ones. Even sapient beings are not necessarily making moral choices, just wise or unwise ones (impulse control or otherwise). But the larger point is that you said, "You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world." But we only have sentient humans and non-sentient animals to work with. You can't just use humans as your example of how non-humans shouldn't be different from humans, it's circular reasoning.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
But I used that term loosely. I'm not presenting a false dichotomy here. Either you give moral status to goblins or you don't. If you do, then you take everything that goes with it. You should automatically grant them the same respect and rights you grant any other moral creature. This is a logical chain of reasoning. Once you do that, you can't "punish" a goblin until he actually commits a crime that you can prove and that you then have judged before a rightful member of civilization's law structure (let's not forget this issue that the goblin does not actively have a vote in the society under who's law you would subject him). I wrote a lengthy post on this subject in another thread. The "slippery slope" was only used for rhetorical purposes. Giving moral status to a goblin that meets my #2 or #3 definition isn't getting on a downward slope, it's jumping off a cliff without a parachute. You ask for so many more complications that you and your DM are unlikely prepared for and will probably just gloss over anyway.

Nope! Once you give a Goblin rights as a moral actor you have to treat it like you would a human being in the same situation. Whether that has anything to do with law, society, or any of the rest has nothing to do with whether he's a Human or a Goblin and everything to do with who's got a hold of him, where they've got a hold of him, and what the law may be there. And Humans fom, say, a barbaric tribe had nothing to do with the laws of the particular society either.

A CG Rogue with a practical streak may care nothing for the law, and simply execute either. So might a Paladin of Iomedae for that matter. A Paladin of Sarenrae may feel the same, or may cry for mercy. A LN magistrate may insist on arresting men and killing goblins in identical circumstances, but that's because the law (or the magistrate) discriminates, not necessarily because there's a moral distinction between the species.

You say, "Nope!" But then go on to prove, "Yep!" You must give Goblin rights in your society and under your laws. And you're equivocating (not expressing intent) here: I'm saying that you shouldn't assume they are moral actors unless that's how you imagine them in your world (Imagining #1), because if you don't see them this way (Imaginings #2 and #3) and apply a moral framework anyway, then you open yourself up to a whole host of contradictory positions and self-defeating behaviors.

But why are your societal or national boundaries and the associated laws applicable to any particular goblin? You say, "Whoever has hold of it." But how did that person or society get hold of the goblin without first capturing it? How can you capture a goblin if you've given it moral autonomy? You have three choices (really five [maybe more], but these are sufficient), you can either kill it in self-defense, take it prisoner, or let it go. If it's not done anything wrong, how do you justifiably kill it or take it prisoner? Alternatively, knowing how goblins behave around defenseless humans, how do you justifiably let it go?

[I'm tired of typing it, so unless you have a problem, it will be "GS" instead of "Good Species" or "Goodly Species" going forward]. Goblins do not, by and large, enter into any social contract with the GS. So, treating them as if they do is non-sensical and possibly suicidal (or homicidal depending on who that goblin attacks and tries to eat first), because you knowingly let a monster free to which you could pin no crime.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
So, you're saying that a tribe of primitive humans that engaged in monstrous behavior should all, to a man, die? Without individual trial or individual judgment because they're all guilty by association? What about the women (some of them will be strong and possibly have contributed, some may be weak and are only there because they have no understanding of options)? And at what age are the children exempt?

Probably around 13 or less. Though those'll need to be watched carefully for signs of backlsliding into their tribe's degenerate ways. And bear in mind that, in Golarion at least, both humans and goblins have basically no sexism, and thus the women were probably as much a part of any atrocities as the men. You need Orcs and Gnolls for 'non-combatant females' to be likely to come into play.

As to whether they should die to a man? That's a judgment call on the PCs' part, but if we're talking the incestuous cannibal family ala Sawney Bean? I'd bet they kill 'em all. And you have to get pretty much that bad before you're approaching the depths most monstrous races according to Classic Monsters Revisited and other Golarion sources.

But notice how you can't take a clean position? You arbitrarily judge that 13 is a cutoff age of innocence for humans. Based on your personal excellence in psychological understanding? I say that tongue-in-cheek. I don't mean disrespect. Rather, I mean that our information of pyschology is far too limited for the elitist pronouncements we often hear from the psychiatric community.

You're saying that because there is no sexism (as you wish) there are no weak, dominated members of tribes (male or female) that deserve a chance in a different environment, one of love and nurture rather than abuse and fear? The larger point is missed - these are arbitrary judgment calls, not clean positions of well-considered moralism. If you were a Paladin, I might have to consider atonement for this. Not because you didn't follow a law or code of ethics, but because you indiscriminately slaughtered a tribe of humans. I wouldn't give the same consideration at all to a tribe of goblins.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
And the fact that it's easier? That's messed up.

I'm saying that I choose Imaginings #2 and #3 for my evil species because they're more enjoyable to play against.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
It seriously does encourage the idea that some thinking beings, distinguished by sight, are inherently completely okay to kill. That's not racist per se, but it's in the same line of thought.

No it's not! I've spent a great deal of effort trying to explain why it's not, but here it is anyway. GS and ES [goblins, gnolls, orcs, and drow] are not the same, inherently. ES differ in critical ways from GS that lead them to be murderous monsters of GS (and each other, for that matter). Saying that a horse is a horse is acceptable. Saying that a murderous specie is a murderous specie is apparently not. Either goblins are a scourge on the face of the world (imagining #2 or #3) or they aren't (imagining #1 - kind of, even here they can be a scourge, but one you won't destroy indiscriminately [I assume you're of the position that collateral damage in war is unacceptable]). But you can believe that they are not even if they are and treat them like they are not even if they are. Then end result, over time, should be a preponderance of evil being done in the world (with respect to these "handled" species), rather than good.

No, what's messed up is this: The cunning hyena eats humans (babies and adults). We shoot the cunning hyena on sight. The cunning goblin eats humans (babies and adults), but we treat them as if they're moral creatures (because they have sentience [which in our world seems to be sacred]) and won't hurt them unless we catch them in the act. If we give them equivalent rights to humans, then we shouldn't discriminate or exclude goblins from the local town fairs. And when they accept your lack of discrimination and visit the local farm house to pay their respects or put together a large group to come visit the town on celebration day? Well, let's just say, you can't prove when you find them that they are "to a goblin" complicit.

I'm not really sure much more can be said here. I find myself repeating myself in different words over and over.


Alzrius wrote:
There's a related question that may help with this one.

I clicked. That was evil.

Liberty's Edge

jupistar wrote:
It sounds like another point to conclude, except, re: this last sentence. The example I gave regarding my wife and that you followed up with regarding Asperger's is what I'm talking about. You have your own "thinking" different from mine which is different from my wife's. Just because we have the appearance of similar behavior and similar thoughts and similar goals, what's happening inside may be entirely different.

True to some degree...except that, particularly when NPCs are described in published adventures, their actual motives are often described, and are quintessentially no different from those an Evil human might have.

jupistar wrote:
"Spiritual corruption" was not on my list of 3 possible imaginings. I don't even really know what that means on any practical level, so I'll just say that it sounds inherent, the question only being, "At what point does the spirit become corrupt?"

No idea. I didn't precisely choose it, I was more-or-less quoting the particular NPC's entry. :)

jupistar wrote:
Yes and no. Sapient beings are considered wise, but even so, this does not make them moral actors. But even that's begging the question, "Does sentience equate to sapience?" It's a pretty common understanding that it doesn't. Ex. You tell a 3 year old human child, "Taking that cookie is wrong. It does not belong to you. Do not take the cookie." You then leave the room for awhile and come back to find the cookie eaten. What took place? A moral choice? Or a desire that was not overridden by a self-preservation (punishment/discipline avoidance) control? It is this sort of cognitive process that I attribute to goblins. A desire for or want of or delight in something that it cannot overcome with self-preservation control. Certainly not moral choices.

Sentience doesn't equate to sapience, you're absolutely correct. But if you're talking about creatures capable of speech, tool use, literacy, smelting metal, and creating a functioning society you're talking about sapient creatures.

And using a three year old as an example seems out of place. We're talking about adult creatures here with the ability to plan and reason at a full adult level (Int and Wis scores of 7+, usualy 10+, making them as smart as people).

jupistar wrote:
Pit bulls: That's not true at all, regardless of what the pit bull propagandists want us to believe. Pit bulls are the most aggressive species of dog because they were bred that way. It's genetic. Some have better impulse control than others. But, would you trust a 5 year old child around any pit bull, especially one that *you* didn't train?

I'm not a dog trainer, so I certainly wouldn't trust a 5 year old around a pit bull *I* tried to train. And...I'd be rather leery of leaving a 5 year old child alone with any large dog. Not because they have some 'irresistable agressive impulse', but because they lack the capacity to reason, or understand that a child may be, say, less durable and resistant to 'playful' bites than a puppy, or that a child doesn't mean it when they pull their tail, or many similar things. They are capable of severely damaging a child and have some potential to do so...so you don't leave them alone with small children.

jupistar wrote:
Horses: Again, you're missing the point. Nature does beat nurture in RL regularly. Impulse-restraint seems to stem from desensitization aided by reason or a stronger impulse (e.g. fear, lust, hatred) competing with the current one.

Huh? I'm not talking nature or nurture here, I'm talking basic capabilities of non-human species. Which include self-control when they are motivated to use it, just like humans. Nothing is actualy a 'slave to it's instincts'. The idea that they are is outdated and contradicted by the current research on the subject. That's all I was saying here.

jupistar wrote:
And we're not talking about sapient beings, but sentient ones. Even sapient beings are not necessarily making moral choices, just wise or unwise ones (impulse control or otherwise). But the larger point is that you said, "You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world." But we only have sentient humans and non-sentient animals to work with. You can't just use humans as your example of how non-humans shouldn't be different from humans, it's circular reasoning.

Okay, to clarify, I'm talking about three separate, but related things (the last one basically only in passing):

1. Non-human species in D&D are not generally presented as truly alien in mentality, but as variations on the human norm, with what would be extreme attitudes in humans common among them based on the particular species. You can try and present a more truly alien version of these creatures, but it's going against most of the existing source material, and (if their motives are truly alien) tends to strain many people's suspension of disbelief (especially with Orcs, who can, after all, interbreed with humans), not should strain it mind you (it likely shouldn't) but does strain it.

2. Because they are presented as variations on the human norm, and as sapient beings, I find the idea that they lack free will and/or the ability to choose to behave in a righteous and socially acceptable fashion unacceptable. This is absolutely, to some degree, predicated on #1.

3. Entirely apart from points #1 and #2, I consider the idea that it is acceptable to commit what amounts to genocide, while potentially justifiable in-world if they are truly alien and inimical, to be morally repugnant in the real world, and that we should thus structure our game worlds so that's not a good or logical thing for, say, a Paladinto advocate.

jupistar wrote:

You say, "Nope!" But then go on to prove, "Yep!" You must give Goblin rights in your society and under your laws. And you're equivocating (not expressing intent) here: I'm saying that you shouldn't assume they are moral actors unless that's how you imagine them in your world (Imagining #1), because if you don't see them this way (Imaginings #2 and #3) and apply a moral framework anyway, then you open yourself up to a whole host of contradictory positions and self-defeating behaviors.

But why are your societal or national boundaries and the associated laws applicable to any particular goblin? You say, "Whoever has hold of it." But how did that person or society get hold of the goblin without first capturing it? How can you capture a goblin if you've given it moral autonomy? You have three choices (really five [maybe more], but these are sufficient), you can either kill it in self-defense, take it prisoner, or let it go. If it's not done anything wrong, how do you justifiably kill it or take it prisoner? Alternatively, knowing how goblins behave around defenseless humans, how do you justifiably let it go?

[I'm tired of typing it, so unless you have a problem, it will be "GS" instead of "Good Species" or "Goodly Species" going forward]. Goblins do not, by and large, enter into any social contract with the GS. So, treating them as if they do is non-sensical and possibly suicidal (or homicidal depending on who that goblin attacks and tries to eat first), because you knowingly let a monster free to which you could pin no crime.

Okay, I'm unclear on what the problem is here. This section was in response to the slippery slope arguent you used, to which my response was 'Giving them status as moral actors doesn't require anything from PCs, they can still choose to do, well, just about anything.' I'm not realy arguing that that is ideal...just how the world's gonna work. People in-setting don't have to consider Goblins moral actors or equal to humans forthat to be the case.

As for the actual situation let's use an example for a moment: You have a human from a family like Sawney Bean's (or a tribe/Cult of Lamashtu, or whatever). Your choices are precisely the same, and you can make all the same arguments that you don't have the moral right to capture, try, or execute them...except they presumably live in an area with no real law, so you have as much legal right as anyone, as well as a moral responsibility to stop their crimes. I'm just arguing that those two situations should be morally identical (PCs are already gonna treat 'em about the same).

Your entire argument is also far too focused on law and the social contract. Both are useful, but rarely applicable on any macro level in the areas PCs go adventuring in, so why even bring them up?

And even within a society, your argument assumes all PCs are morally unwilling to be violent vigilantes, which is, in my experiennce, an extremely poor assumption. PCs, as a rule, love being violent vigilantes and killing humans who've commited horrible acts.

jupistar wrote:
But notice how you can't take a clean position? You arbitrarily judge that 13 is a cutoff age of innocence for humans. Based on your personal excellence in psychological understanding? I say that tongue-in-cheek. I don't mean disrespect. Rather, I mean that our information of pyschology is far too limited for the elitist pronouncements we often hear from the psychiatric community.

Nah, it's completely arbitrary. If the tribe has an adulthood ritual (probably one involving an atrocity of some sort) use that instead.

jupistar wrote:
You're saying that because there is no sexism (as you wish) there are no weak, dominated members of tribes (male or female) that deserve a chance in a different environment, one of love and nurture rather than abuse and fear? The larger point is missed - these are arbitrary judgment calls, not clean positions of well-considered moralism. If you were a Paladin, I might have to consider atonement for this. Not because you didn't follow a law or code of ethics, but because you indiscriminately slaughtered a tribe of humans. I wouldn't give the same consideration at all to a tribe of goblins.

In Afghanistan (an extremely patriarchal culture, then and now), in the days of Britain's imperialism, the tribes there gave prisoners to their women to torture to death. Weak or disadvantaged doesn't mean innocent.

And it does depend on the situation. If, when you attack the tribe, they all grab weapons and attack you back, their deaths are pretty much justified. If they surrender? Then you have a moral issue...but one that some investigation and questioning of the prisoners should clear up one way or another pretty quickly.

And more importantly, this situation only comes up at all if the GM wishes it to. If they wish to interject the moral dilemma. If they don't, they simply have everyone armed and ready to fight the adventurers, nobody surrender, and evidence of the tribe's atrocities in plain sight (whatever race that tribe might be).

And that's if you even get into 'exterminate this tribe' plotlines, which I've notably never seen one of (and am somewhat leery of). Most of my anti-humanoid stuff has been against war-parties who'd attacked or conquered a human settlement, and are thus clear foes. Their women and children weren't even anywhere nearby.

jupistar wrote:
I'm saying that I choose Imaginings #2 and #3 for my evil species because they're more enjoyable to play against.

Eh. I'd find any such things kinda hollow, myself. And a little icky.

jupistar wrote:
No it's not! I've spent a great deal of effort trying to explain why it's not, but here it is anyway. GS and ES [goblins, gnolls, orcs, and drow] are not the same, inherently. ES differ in critical ways from GS that lead them to be murderous monsters of GS (and each other, for that matter). Saying that a horse is a horse is acceptable. Saying that a murderous specie is a murderous specie is apparently not. Either goblins are a scourge on the face of the world (imagining #2 or #3) or they aren't (imagining #1 - kind of, even here they can be a scourge, but one you won't destroy indiscriminately [I assume you're of the position that collateral damage in war is unacceptable]). But you can believe that they are not even if they are and treat them like they are not even if they are. Then end result, over time, should be a preponderance of evil being done in the world (with respect to these "handled" species), rather than good.

In-world? Sure, if you make them be that way. In the real world? You're the one who decided they were like that. That intelligent creatures were somehow less than people. That in no way inherently makes you a bad person, and I'm not trying to say it does. Really, I'm not.

It's just that, well, deciding that Race X is good and noble but Race Y is inherently evil and exterminating them is a moral good has got a few potentially really unpleasant real-world implications, and ones I prefer to avoid. This is even true if you replace race with species, as the propensity for trying to exterminate wolves in the real world demonstrates.

jupistar wrote:
No, what's messed up is this: The cunning hyena eats humans (babies and adults). We shoot the cunning hyena on sight. The cunning goblin eats humans (babies and adults), but we treat them as if they're moral creatures (because they have sentience [which in our world seems to be sacred]) and won't hurt them unless we catch them in the act. If we give them equivalent rights to humans, then we shouldn't discriminate or exclude goblins from the local town fairs. And when they accept your lack of discrimination and visit the local farm house to pay their respects or put together a large group to come visit the town on celebration day? Well, let's just say, you can't prove when you find them that they are "to a goblin" complicit.

OT Note: Hyenas basically don't do that. They're bad rep is almost entirely unwarranted, and has a lot to do with lions being prettier (though much bigger dicks).

And this isn't what I'm arguing at all: Goblins are an active, inimical, culture, not part of the human culture. They live in separate villages, and worship foul gods with horrible rites. They are to be fought and captured or executed in the same way human cultists of Rovagug or Lamashtu should be fought. They shouldn't be allowed to do the things you list for all the same reasons a hulking man with a blood-covered Greataxe and a symbol of Rovagug on his chest shouldn't.

But if you kill some goblins, get a goblin baby, and raise said Goblin to be a part of mainstream culture? Yeah, morally speaking he should be a part of it (though a fair degree of prejudice is inevitable, as are a few quirks in your acculturated Goblin).

jupistar wrote:
I'm not really sure much more can be said here. I find myself repeating myself in different words over and over.

Well, there is clearly some fundamental disagreement here, but hopefully this post has clarified my points somewhat.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
jupistar wrote:
I'm not really sure much more can be said here. I find myself repeating myself in different words over and over.

Well, there is clearly some fundamental disagreement here, but hopefully this post has clarified my points somewhat.

You did. I'll try to condense here for the sake of both our times.

You made one really good point right at the start of your post I would like to acknowledge.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
True to some degree...except that, particularly when NPCs are described in published adventures, their actual motives are often described, and are quintessentially no different from those an Evil human might have.

You're absolutely right. In fact, if you read the Dark Elf Trilogy, you might conclude that Dark Elves are no different from a whole city of evil-but-toe-the-line-or-die (LE) humans. But that underscores the point that if we're to have a realistic viewpoint of these creatures, these Dark Elves, we have to have a consistent framework by which they're molded. A framework that includes 99.99% or more of the members of a species having evil intent requires an explanation outside of "bad choices". And that goes for goblins, orcs, gnolls, aboleths, and every other species with a specie-spanning alignment consistency.

Plus we have to accept, you and I, that source writers are not going to equally have given this issue a great deal of thought, be expected to work through the morass of issues you and I are now discussing, or be consistent amongst each other when doing so. Plus, like you, they may find trying to *write* an alien mindset very difficult to do and unlikely to connect with the average reader/gamer. If you ask any of them to explain how the large majority of an entire species of very intelligent and long-lived creatures (such as drow and aboleths) can have such evil mentalities, they're not going to be able to answer you outside of "spiritual corruption" unless they agree to my imaginings. Culture-based positions such as yours fail to satisfy in these cases. Moral reasoning must assert itself, with enough time, in very long-lived and intelligent species, if their genetics and psychologies are of a similar nature to ours as you suggest.

"Spiritual corruption" is a nice idea worth further exploring. It reminds me of the Dark Eldar of WH40K, but that's not entirely well-explained, either. But even spiritual corruption implies an inherent evil and not a cultural, unenlightened position. The only question here is when it happens (some ritual of descration) and thus are drow young not corrupt? Would drow young, if left to their own natural progression, develop in the way a normal elf would develop in a similar situation?

Deadmanwalking wrote:
But if you're talking about creatures capable of speech, tool use, literacy, smelting metal, and creating a functioning society you're talking about sapient creatures.

A functioning society need not exhibit either morality or wisdom, only law and order--and not even very good law and order. We use morality in our world to generate our law, but Menzoberranzen is an example where morality is not needed to create a functioning society. In fact, codification of law is not even necessary (as in tribes of aborigines in Africa) for a functioning society. In fact, it stands to reason that sapiency would, by definition, not exist for an entire species (minus the .01%), if we can concur that evil is a wrong-headed ideology to embrace.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Nothing is actualy a 'slave to it's instincts'. The idea that they are is outdated and contradicted by the current research on the subject.

I'm not aware that such a thing has been proven and you don't say that it is, just that it is suggested by the current research. I don't care very much about contemporary thought on such subjects, but would love to hear why it has been concluded thusly. I don't even know how the claim could be proven. It is my belief that almost all animals are slaves to their instincts, even domesticated animals that have simply had some of their instincts desensitized so that other instincts can have greater control (laziness, hunger, fear of punishment). Even the concept of "routine" and "learned behavior" can be laid at the floor of an instinctive nature (hence why some animals can be domesticated and other's can't), but I won't argue that point. But I will argue that given enough stimuli to reawaken an instinctive response that has been conditioned away, the animal will respond accordingly.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Non-human species in D&D are not generally presented as truly alien in mentality, but as variations on the human norm, with what would be extreme attitudes in humans common among them based on the particular species.

True (again, see my discussion above about source writers), but even if we assume that almost all of a species exists at an extreme variation of the human norm, then that extreme variation is the norm for that species and thus anything outside that norm is an aberration, suggesting, again, something inherent to the species.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Because they are presented as variations on the human norm, and as sapient beings, I find the idea that they lack free will and/or the ability to choose to behave in a righteous and socially acceptable fashion unacceptable.

I hear you and appreciate your honesty. Again the issue of sapience vs. sentience. I've spent a lot of time, over the years, exploring the subject of free will and really don't want to get very involved here as it is a very broad subject. Let's just suffice it to say that in my opinion a specie can have free will and still never choose to do "the right thing for the sake of righteousness". In short, free will is simply the ability to make a decision without coercion from an external agent--it does not preclude the factors that make up the nature of the being itself, it's experiences, or the molecules and the atomic chain reactions that exist within the structure of that being or that being's brain. There is a question, of course, of soul and it's interaction with the body and mind, but that's always a very murky subject. The universe presents us a dichotomy: cause-and-effect or randomness. But even randomness (and magic) just disrupts the physical world temporarily and subsequently cause-effect continues unabated (except, apparently, at the quantum level :( ). Free will, on the other hand, is often presented as some sort of middle ground between the two, but that is nonsensical; that a being can somehow act independently of itself (the cause-and-effect of it's body, brain, experiences, etc...) and yet somehow not be random implies two beings in one.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
I consider the idea that it is acceptable to commit what amounts to genocide, while potentially justifiable in-world if they are truly alien and inimical, to be morally repugnant in the real world, and that we should thus structure our game worlds so that's not a good or logical thing.

Thank you for saying this. I believe your position, which I find completely understandable, is what truly drives so many of the comments like that of the OP - a real-world transference of ideas. "It's like human racial-genocide." I'm ok with this honest truth. I'm not ok with people objectively declaring that I'm evil because I don't see it this way.

Let me pose a fantastical moral dilemma for you. What if we encountered another race of humans on this world, Perozians (Peruvians + Amazonians). A race that is typified by very orange skin (just for differentiation purposes) and an extraordinary reproductive rate. Let us further stipulate that every initial encounter with these humans was as a result of their incursions on other human communities of a raiding, cannibalistic nature. They use tools and have developed a sophisticated society (relatively -- think Aztec or Incan) that allow them to work together to achieve their goals. They always divvy up their spoils in equal fashion, but they hold no love or compassion for each other, simply mutual respect (EoR). Let's say that they're completely reproductively compatible with other human races, but they viewed every other non-Perovian as food. Finally, every attempt to socialize these humans with the rest of the world fails -- even with an attempt to raise a Perovian infant from birth marked with the Perovian child trying to eat the non-Perovian parents and later the Perovian adult is found cannibalizing non-Perovian humans. They came out of nowhere (just showed up raiding an Amazonian village), but their population levels are expanding at an alarming rate (anticipated to, at minimum, double each year). Assuming all attempts to socialize them will fail, the question is: what should human civilization do with them?

I suspect your answer will be that you don't like the way I've framed this race; that you've already said that such a race (or similar species) should be opposed, but you don't think such monstrous races or species are either likely to exist or enjoyable to "play" against. Is that correct?

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Your entire argument is also far too focused on law and the social contract.

That's not true. My argument in this regard is simply to answer the common, but silly claim, "The Paladin should drag the surrendered goblin off and hand it over to the authorities." and all the variations on that claim that people casually toss out.

You're basically stating the issue goblins being moral beings has very little relevance to anything, since PCs will do what PCs will do. While that's all very correct, it does nothing to help us identify what a good and righteous PC should do. The point being made is that you're giving moral status to a group of beings that do not make moral decisions (much like children don't make moral decisions - that was included for reference), but rather just act according to their nature 99.99% of the time with an added dose of cunning and coordination (as a result of genetics or not). The question, then, is what is the right thing to do with these beings when they are encountered. You may be a 10th level ranger, so you have more options because you feel safe regardless what those goblins try to do, but that pretty farm girl down the road is not.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
...the tribes there gave prisoners to their women to torture to death. Weak or disadvantaged doesn't mean innocent.

The point wasn't to say that they were weak of body, but weak of mind or force of personality. These men and women would be the kind that have been abused physically and emotionally and are now just basically dominated members of the clan. This kind of human is just as common, if not more so, than the abusive, dominating kind. Sort of like the modern day wife who is so dominated by her abusive husband, that she doesn't oppose his actions towards their children, simply tries to mitigate the damage. Wholesale destruction obviously makes no distinction between these kind of humans and those who have emotionally crushed them for so long.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Hyenas basically don't do that

Hyenas do attack and eat humans. Sure there have been more reported incidents of lions doing so, but hyenas do so as well. But it's irrelevant. I simply used hyenas to make a point because they aren't as attractive and admired as lions.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Goblins are an active, inimical culture, not part of the human culture. They live in separate villages and worship foul gods with horrible rites. They are to be fought and captured or executed in the same way human cultists of Rovagug or Lamashtu should be fought.

So, the right thing to do when you come across an unarmed goblin asking for mercy is to lop off it's head... or what?

Liberty's Edge

jupistar wrote:

You did. I'll try to condense here for the sake of both our times.

You made one really good point right at the start of your post I would like to acknowledge.

Cool, glad I could clarify some things. :)

jupistar wrote:

You're absolutely right. In fact, if you read the Dark Elf Trilogy, you might conclude that Dark Elves are no different from a whole city of evil-but-toe-the-line-or-die (LE) humans. But that underscores the point that if we're to have a realistic viewpoint of these creatures, these Dark Elves, we have to have a consistent framework by which they're molded. A framework that includes 99.99% or more of the members of a species having evil intent requires an explanation outside of "bad choices". And that goes for goblins, orcs, gnolls, aboleths, and every other species with a specie-spanning alignment consistency.

Plus we have to accept, you and I, that source writers are not going to equally have given this issue a great deal of thought, be expected to work through the morass of issues you and I are now discussing, or be consistent amongst each other when doing so. Plus, like you, they may find trying to *write* an alien mindset very difficult to do and unlikely to connect with the average reader/gamer. If you ask any of them to explain how the large majority of an entire species of very intelligent and long-lived creatures (such as drow and aboleths) can have such evil mentalities, they're not going to be able to answer you outside of "spiritual corruption" unless they agree to my imaginings. Culture-based positions such as yours fail to satisfy in these cases. Moral reasoning must assert itself, with enough time, in very long-lived and intelligent species, if their genetics and psychologies are of a similar nature to ours as you suggest.

"Spiritual corruption" is a nice idea worth further exploring. It reminds me of the Dark Eldar of WH40K, but that's not entirely well-explained, either. But even spiritual corruption implies an inherent evil and not a cultural, unenlightened position. The only question here is when it happens (some ritual of descration) and thus are drow young not corrupt? Would drow young, if left to their own natural progression, develop in the way a normal elf would develop in a similar situation?

Ah! Here's where I think you're still missing an important part of my point: I'm fine with Drow being born as borderline sociopaths who have a hard time seeing others as anything but objects, I'm fine with young Orcs being notably more agressive than human children, and with young goblins universally seeing fire as a wonderful toy. And so on and so forth. There's a reason these races are overwhelmingly evil, and it has to do with them having both some inherently very dark impulses and a culture that embraces those.

jupistar wrote:
A functioning society need not exhibit either morality or wisdom, only law and order--and not even very good law and order. We use morality in our world to generate our law, but Menzoberranzen is an example where morality is not needed to create a functioning society. In fact, codification of law is not even necessary (as in tribes of aborigines in Africa) for a functioning society. In fact, it stands to reason that sapiency would, by definition, not exist for an entire species (minus the .01%), if we can concur that evil is a wrong-headed ideology to embrace.

This is the technical definition of sapience, but it's not the usual one used in discussions of a creature's ability to reason. Usually in such discussions (more common in science fiction than fantasy), sapience is used to refer to a creature's...well, personhood for lack of a better term. Link. That's certainly the sense I've been using it in...and bad judgement does little to abrogate it.

jupistar wrote:
I'm not aware that such a thing has been proven and you don't say that it is, just that it is suggested by the current research. I don't care very much about contemporary thought on such subjects, but would love to hear why it has been concluded thusly. I don't even know how the claim could be proven. It is my belief that almost all animals are slaves to their instincts, even domesticated animals that have simply had some of their instincts desensitized so that other instincts can have greater control (laziness, hunger, fear of punishment). Even the concept of "routine" and "learned behavior" can be laid at the floor of an instinctive nature (hence why some animals can be domesticated and other's can't), but I won't argue that point. But I will argue that given enough stimuli to reawaken an instinctive response that has been conditioned away, the animal will respond accordingly.

Animals don't react to particular stimulus in ways any more predictable than humans. I.e. it seems to vary based on the animal's mood, personality, previous experiences, etc. So, logically, since they vary as much as we do, seemingly for more or less the same reasons, if they're slaves to their instincts so are we.

Except we aren't (or not completely, anyway), and so logically neither are they. We just aren't in a position to ask them why they're in a bad mood and not behaving normally today. And, of course, they're vastly less capable of abstract reasoning...but abstract reasoning isn't necessary to deny one's instincts. One can do that out of a variety of other motives, as well.

And you're right it will. It'll reawaken them in people, too. So? Why does provocation causing old instincts to reawaken mean anything? They can still be resisted with sufficient self-control, particularly by self-aware creatures like humans.

jupistar wrote:
True (again, see my discussion above about source writers), but even if we assume that almost all of a species exists at an extreme variation of the human norm, then that extreme variation is the norm for that species and thus anything outside that norm is an aberration, suggesting, again, something inherent to the species.

As mentioned above, I'm actually on board with those species being much more likely to be bad folks, genetically speaking. What I'm not on board for is that being inevitable.

jupistar wrote:
I hear you and appreciate your honesty. Again the issue of sapience vs. sentience. I've spent a lot of time, over the years, exploring the subject of free will and really don't want to get very involved here as it is a very broad subject. Let's just suffice it to say that in my opinion a specie can have free will and still never choose to do "the right thing for the sake of righteousness". In short, free will is simply the ability to make a decision without coercion from an external agent--it does not preclude the factors that make up the nature of the being itself, it's experiences, or the molecules and the atomic chain reactions that exist within the structure of that being or that being's brain. There is a question, of course, of soul and it's interaction with the body and mind, but that's always a very murky subject. The universe presents us a dichotomy: cause-and-effect or randomness. But even randomness (and magic) just disrupts the physical world temporarily and subsequently cause-effect continues unabated (except, apparently, at the quantum level :( ). Free will, on the other hand, is often presented as some sort of middle ground between the two, but that is nonsensical; that a being can somehow act independently of itself (the cause-and-effect of it's body, brain, experiences, etc...) and yet somehow not be random implies two beings in one.

It does indeed. There is (at least in D&D) very much the separate entity that is the soul, which continues on after the death of the body, and can even reincarnate in another body or achieve independent existence as a ghost.

Personally, I believe in the existence of such a separate portion of the self in real life as well, but that's immaterial to this discussion to some degree, as whether a soul exists in the real world or not, it clearly does in that of the game.

jupistar wrote:

Thank you for saying this. I believe your position, which I find completely understandable, is what truly drives so many of the comments like that of the OP - a real-world transference of ideas. "It's like human racial-genocide." I'm ok with this honest truth. I'm not ok with people objectively declaring that I'm evil because I don't see it this way.

Let me pose a fantastical moral dilemma for you. What if we encountered another race of humans on this world, Perozians (Peruvians + Amazonians). A race that is typified by very orange skin (just for differentiation purposes) and an extraordinary reproductive rate. Let us further stipulate that every initial encounter with these humans was as a result of their incursions on other human communities of a raiding, cannibalistic nature. They use tools and have developed a sophisticated society (relatively -- think Aztec or Incan) that allow them to work together to achieve their goals. They always divvy up their spoils in equal fashion, but they hold no love or compassion for each other, simply mutual respect (EoR). Let's say that they're completely reproductively compatible with other human races, but they viewed every other non-Perovian as food. Finally, every attempt to socialize these humans with the rest of the world fails -- even with an attempt to raise a Perovian infant from birth marked with the Perovian child trying to eat the non-Perovian parents and later the Perovian adult is found cannibalizing non-Perovian humans. They came out of nowhere (just showed up raiding an Amazonian village), but their population levels are expanding at an alarming rate (anticipated to, at minimum, double each year). Assuming all attempts to socialize them will fail, the question is: what should human civilization do with them?

I suspect your answer will be that you don't like the way I've framed this race; that you've already said that such a race (or similar species) should be opposed, but you don't think such monstrous races or species are either likely to exist or enjoyable to "play" against. Is that correct?

More or less. If they really existed...well, hard decisions must be made, and exterminating them is probably the only option.

But you're right, I don't like the series of assumptions required to create such a race. I don't think they're particularly plausible, and I don't think that killing them all would be an enjoyable RPG campaign.

And, for the record (again), I don't think you're a bad person for using such species...but many good people perpetuate unfortunate ideas. I mean, even acknowledging it as fantasy...some stuff gets a little icky. I could give examples of books I find unfortunate for similar reasons, if you want.

jupistar wrote:

That's not true. My argument in this regard is simply to answer the common, but silly claim, "The Paladin should drag the surrendered goblin off and hand it over to the authorities." and all the variations on that claim that people casually toss out.

You're basically stating the issue goblins being moral beings has very little relevance to anything, since PCs will do what PCs will do. While that's all very correct, it does nothing to help us identify what a good and righteous PC should do. The point being made is that you're giving moral status to a group of beings that do not make moral decisions (much like children don't make moral decisions - that was included for reference), but rather just act according to their nature 99.99% of the time with an added dose of cunning and coordination (as a result of genetics or not). The question, then, is what is the right thing to do with these beings when they are encountered. You may be a 10th level ranger, so you have more options because you feel safe regardless what those goblins try to do, but that pretty farm girl down the road is not.

Firstly, I'd say the authors of the game are the ones who made them sapient, and thus the ones who are responsible for the moral dilemma. You're the one changing things by making them not be moral agents, which admittedly does solve that particular problem.

A good and righteous PC does what he can. PCs are very rarely in a world where they can remain absolute pillars of moral rectitude. This isn't a game based on Superman comics, it's based on Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Elric, and other morally ambiguous types. Golarion certainly isn't a bright, shiny, happy world where hard moral decisions are rare, it's really rather dark in some ways. Read the fiction if you don't believe me (two separate Pathfinder Tales stories starting with a Paladin's brutal execution and with the protagonists engaging in cannibalism, respectively, come immediately to mind).

Does that mean you can't play say, a Paladin? A good and righteous man who always does what he believes is right? Absolutely not. You can play such a man in a heartbeat, and do great things, saving or even permanently changing the world. Overthrowing evil kings and installing righteous ones (or parliamentary democracies), freeing slaves, slaying the very lords of Hell itself! But you don't get there without facing some hard choices on the way. Righteousness isn't easy, nor should it be.

So a righteous man, faced with a hard moral choice, does what he thinks is right. Possibly guided by a code of honor, if he's got one, but he makes a choice. And then he lives with it. That's how making moral choices works. What choice he makes depends on the man and the situation and can't be easily generalized to a type of situation this broad.

jupistar wrote:
The point wasn't to say that they were weak of body, but weak of mind or force of personality. These men and women would be the kind that have been abused physically and emotionally and are now just basically dominated members of the clan. This kind of human is just as common, if not more so, than the abusive, dominating kind. Sort of like the modern day wife who is so dominated by her abusive husband, that she doesn't oppose his actions towards their children, simply tries to mitigate the damage. Wholesale destruction obviously makes no distinction between these kind of humans and those who have emotionally crushed them for so long.

I wasn't talking physically weak either. That said, you do have a point, but as previously mentioned, one that depends entirely on the GM. Such individuals will cower and surrender, not fight the PCs, so you then go back to the 'how you treat the prisoners' scenario, which is, as I mentioned, really up to the PCs in question.

jupistar wrote:
Hyenas do attack and eat humans. Sure there have been more reported incidents of lions doing so, but hyenas do so as well. But it's irrelevant. I simply used hyenas to make a point because they aren't as attractive and admired as lions.

Valid point. I did admit it was OT, I just don't like seeing Hyenas get a worse rep than they deserve. :)

jupistar wrote:
So, the right thing to do when you come across an unarmed goblin asking for mercy is to lop off it's head... or what?

Okay, we're starting to get specific enough here to give a real plan of action:

In this situation, the right thing (as in ideal) involves things like discern lies and commune to see if an repentance on the Goblin's part is genuine. Lacking such resources, many adventuring parties will use Sense Motive, and if any are good judges of character probably still come to an accurate conclusion (Goblins are usually poor liars, comes from that racial Cha penalty).

If the Goblin's telling the truth, and legitimately repentant, you probably bring him along on your adventures, using him as a scout perhaps after you build up some trust and working on teaching him what's acceptable. Hopefully you succeed. If you caqn, you use things like mark of justice to help ensure righteous behavior.

If he's lying, you execute him as a spy.

If he's legitimately cast out by his people, but not repentant for his past behavior, you probably kill him. It's almost a mercy killing, and fair payment for his likely crimes. Is thisw one ideal or quite fair? No, but it's not a perfet world and the other options are all worse.

All are more-or-less the same as what you also do with an ex-cultist of Rovagug (raised in the faith) who you find in the same situation. Though the ex-cultist you probably mark in some way so people know to be wary of them. The Goblin's already marked just by being a Goblin.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Murdering and pillaging.

Spoiler:
All PCs.


In Pathfinder, evil is a supernatural, abstract force. Evil is more than just anti-social and selfish behaviors, it is a strong desire to inflict suffering onto others.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
This is the technical definition of sapience, but it's not the usual one used in discussions of a creature's ability to reason. Usually in such discussions (more common in science fiction than fantasy), sapience is used to refer to a creature's...well, personhood for lack of a better term. Link. That's certainly the sense I've been using it in...and bad judgement does little to abrogate it.

It is sentience that I'm familiar with being used that way. In fact, I've only just recently seen "sapience" being applied to non-humans... just as I began to discuss the alignment issues of these creatures. You've been specifically sticking with sapience even though it's not appropriate, in my opinion, and I'm trying to apply a more correct term. Personally, I think if we allow sapience as an valid qualifer, we begin to lose clarity and equivocate (I'm missing a non-intentional verb in my vocab, here) more than we should. It's as though, even without any evidence, we assume that sentience equates to the capacity for sapience and thus we conflate the two. I think that's unwarranted.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
...if they're slaves to their instincts so are we...

Not a valid conclusion. While partly true, on the one hand, some animals cannot be trained to overcome their instincts while on the other hand, humans have the intelligence and willpower to train themselves. This is all a reference to your charge that, "You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world." See bottom.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
It does indeed. There is (at least in D&D) very much the separate entity that is the soul...Personally, I believe in the existence of such a separate portion of the self in real life as well...

That's cool. That real-life souls exist is a discussion I'm certainly not prepared to have right now (more of a commitment than I'm ready for). But the D&D one is important.

The issue of how the soul interacts with the body in D&D/PF has not been fully illustred for me. However, in my theological pursuits, the soul is not seen as "two beings in one", but rather a separate portion of a singular being and represents the "mind" (through some unclear interaction with the brain, perhaps). This is really the only rational point of view that I can see. In either case, you will still have a cause-and-effect relationship occurring. Because in the former case, there are two minds (soul vs. brain) competing and then "self" becomes a moving target of a defintion. And even then, one mind simply wins out over the other or no decision is being made. Nothing really changes here. I've always thought of humans as beings with multiple minds, anyway (regardless of soul). And in the latter case you have a singular being acting in accordance with it's nature (however the soul's nature is described), still under the umbrella of determinism.

I think it's simplest to assume that the soul is the "mind" and it interacts with the "brain". I've always liked to think of the soul as the cognitive driver of the brain (retaining memories as it leaves the body), while the brain handles all the other stuff (such as memory creation/recall and body regulation) automatically. Ultimately, even the soul must abide by a set of laws that govern the way it operates. It should not be random or people would be. And it is apparently mutable in time.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
More or less. If they really existed...well, hard decisions must be made, and exterminating them is probably the only option.

But that would be... genocide. Ok, I know you've never taken the hard-line stance that genocide is inherently evil, so this is a hollow victory. I think you and I are starting to meet somewhere in the middle.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
As mentioned above, I'm actually on board with those species being much more likely to be bad folks, genetically speaking. What I'm not on board for is that being inevitable.

So, unless you care to continue about the soul, I think we can simplify our discussion to just our vision of these species. If you agree that there is likely to be a genetic (or inherent spiritual corruption/tendency) component, then I think we have communion. I'm ok with "not inevitable". To me, Drizzt is an example of "not inevitable". Naellk of the Orcs would be another example of "not inevitable" (if Chaotic Neutral is the best you can do, we'll take it!). Someone else referred to a good goblin champion somewhere, too. The only difference then is the question of likelihood that a drow, raised in a good society, is going to turn out to be a good (or even neutral). Similarly, what are the chances a goblin would? An orc?

My contention is simply that even humans end up evil in a good society, how much more likely, then, is it that a species that tends strongly towards evil is going to end up evil?

So, ultimately, it comes down to this: if 99.99% of a given species is evil (regardless of the explanation), what then is our correct attitude here? I would think that the correct attitude must be much like the Ents coming across hobbits. Skeptical (little orcs?), ready to kill (still, they're orcs), but waiting to find out (maybe they're not orcs). We're not even slowed by the thought that some of them have embraced Gorum--by nature they still want to war. Skeptical (good orcs?), ready to kill (still, they're orcs, who ever heard of a good orc?), but waiting to find out (maybe they're "ok" orcs, but we won't stick our necks out to find out).

We've never used the term genocide with regards to our feelings towards the orcs and goblins and drow and such, because the notion of being able to wipe them all out is ludicrous, but I doubt anyone other than adventurers looking for a challenge would be saddened with their removal from the world. Like a roach or earwig, you stomp on them when you find them: to reduce their numbers to protect the lands around and to help stem the tide of a possible invasion (unless we need to interrogate them for information). This is good. This is right. Imagine you get the drop on a drow sneaking through the woods of a frontier nation where law and civilization are far away. You capture him and interrogate him. Now what? I bet you don't let him go. And keeping him means there is a very good chance someone will die at it's hands, eventually. You're simply not in a position to keep prisoners and this guy is too dangerous to free.

If one of these species makes itself clear that it is an aberration, then it's proper to give it a possible chance to survive. But the default position should be to defeat these enemies of Good, even in the face of surrender, because "surrender" to an evil creature means, "Let me live so I can do something rotten again". And I think we agree on that.

Now, I temper all that with, we don't kill orcs on sight, although we might expel them from our lands, because we don't want to start a war with them. There is a standoff in the form of mutual fear of self-destruction (not fear of mutual self-destruction). We have an uneasy truce with the orcs that we don't want to unbalance because we don't know that we can take them. He who has the gun, makes the rules. If everyone has a gun, well, guns make for respectful neighbors. When you're facing off against evil and evil has a better chance of success than you, you don't choose to provoke it unless you have no other choice (they're committing atrocities or they're developing an unacceptable advantage [numbers, weaponry]).

Liberty's Edge

jupistar wrote:
It is sentience that I'm familiar with being used that way. In fact, I've only recently seen "sapience" being applied to non-humans... just as I began to discuss alignment issues of these creatures. You've been specifically sticking with sapience even though it's not appropriate, in my opinion, and I'm trying to apply a more correct term. Personally, I think if we allow sapience as an valid qualifer, we begin to lose clarity and equivocate (I'm missing a non-intentional verb in my vocab, here) more than we should.

I've been involved in a number of (usually sci-fi) discussions of non-human intelligences, and sentience is basically not allowed in such discussions, as it is too easily argued to apply to things like cats or hyenas (who, after all, meet the technical criteria, as they are capable of percieving the world around them), forcing the use of sapience as an alternate term for the concept in question.

The difference in terminology backgrounds is definitely one of the problems involved, though. We clearly need to operationalize our definitions. :)

jupistar wrote:
Not a valid conclusion. While partly true, one the one hand some animals cannot be trained to overcome their instincts and on the other hand, we have the intelligence and willpower to train ourselves. This is all a reference to your charge that, "You're also arguing for nature absolutely winning out over nurture...which tends to ring kind of hollow, since that doesn't seem to be the way things work out in the real world." See bottom.

Animals can absolutely be trained to overcome their instincts. As when you train a wolf to herd sheep without hurting them (very doable). You're quite correct that we're far more capable of self-training than they are, though. I was never arguing that animals were as capable of ignoring their instincts as people, just that they could, and that most of the reasons we're better at it are entirely tied to our sapience (or sentience, or whatever we're calling it now).

And I still say you're overstating how important nature is in a person or creature's final fate. :)

jupistar wrote:

That's cool. That real life issue is a discussion I'm clearly not prepared to have right now (more of a commitment than I'm ready for). But the D&D one is important.

The issue of how the soul interacts with the body in D&D/PF has not been fully explained to me. However, in my theological pursuits, the soul is not seen as "two beings in one", but rather a separate portion of a singular being and represents the "mind" (through some unclear interaction with the brain, perhaps). This is really the only rational point of view, I can see. In either case, you will still have a cause-and-effect relationship occurring, because nothing can act against itself unless there are two minds (soul vs. brain) competing and then "self" becomes a moving target of a defintion. And even then, one mind simply wins out over the other or no decision is being made. Nothing really changes here. I've always thought of humans as beings with multiple minds, anyway (regardless of soul).

I think it's simplest to assume that the soul is the "mind" and it interacts with the "brain". I've always liked to think of the soul as the cognitive driver of the brain (retaining memories as it leaves the body), while the brain handles all the other stuff (such as memory creation/recall and body regulation) automatically. Ultimately, even the soul must abide by a set of laws that govern the way it operates. It should not be random or people would be. And it is apparently mutable in time.

All more or less agreed actually, though I'll note that with reincarnation explicitly allowed you have to acknowledge the possibility of prior experiences by a reincarnated soul affecting it's behavior in it's current body, if only on a subconcious level.

jupistar wrote:
But that would be... genocide. Ok, I know you've never taken the hard-line stance that genocide is inherently evil, so this is a hollow victory. I think you and I are starting to meet somewhere in the middle.

Well, it pretty much is evil in the real world. I mean, there's no species actually so inimical that such a thing is necessary, and I consider their future existence unlikely.

But yeah, if you've got something where they're actively malevolent from a human perspective and it's them or us...survival's a harsh mistress.

jupistar wrote:
So, unless you care to continue about the soul, I think we can simplify our discussion to our vision of these species. If you agree that there is likely to be a genetic component, then I think we have communion. I'm ok with "not inevitable". To me, Drizzt is an example of "not inevitable". Naellk of the Orcs would be another example of "not inevitable" (if Chaotic Neutral is the best you can do, we'll take it!). Someone else referred to a good goblin champion somewhere, too. The only difference then is the question of likelihood that a drow, raised in a good society, is going to turn out to be a good (or even neutral). Similarly, what are the chances a goblin would? An orc?

Yeah, I think we've got some definite agreement here. And I'd note that a Drow, Goblin, or Orc wouldn't even need to be non-Evil to be considered a success in terms of existing in society, just an individual who bought into the social contract and wasn't actively inimical to others for the most part. An entirely self-centered attitude isn't necessarily contraindicted by that, though obviously you're aiming for a Good alignment when you try this.

jupistar wrote:
My contention is simply that even humans end up evil in a good society, how much more likely, then, is it that a species that tends towards evil is going to end up evil?

Ah, but most humans, parents included, are Neutral aligned. So both Good and Evil are actually deviances from the human norm (and, IMO, probably about equally common ones). You don't give an Orc or Drow baby to those random Neutral people. You give them to Good aligned people. To the best parents you can possibly find, maybe a Paladin or devoted Cleric of a Good deity, if you can find a couple of such people.

jupistar wrote:
So, ultimately, it comes down to this: if 99.99% of a given species is evil (regardless of culture or genetics or any other explanation), what then is our correct attitude here? I would think that the correct attitude must be much like the Ents coming across hobbits. Skeptical (little orcs?), ready to kill (still, they're orcs), but waiting to find out (maybe they're not orcs). We're not even slowed by the thought that some of them have embraced Gorum--by nature they still want to war. Skeptical (good orcs?), ready to kill (still, they're orcs), but waiting to find out (maybe they're "ok" orcs, but we won't stick our necks out to find out).

Yeah, I'm on board and in agreement here. That's really all I'm talking about. Are they almost all evil? Yes. Every last one on some profound level so it's okay to slaughter their babies? No.

jupistar wrote:
We've never used the term genocide with regards to our feelings towards the orcs and goblins and drow and such, because the notion of being able to wipe them all out is ludicrous. But like a roach or a earwig, you stomp on them when you find them: to reduce their numbers to protect the lands around and to help stem the tide of a possible invasion (unless we need to interrogate them for information). This is good. This is right. Imagine you get the drop on a drow sneaking through the woods in the woods of a frontier nation where law and civilization are far away. You capture him and interrogate him. Now what? I bet you don't let him go. And keeping him is almost certainly going to be the death of someone, eventually.

Agreed. Barring sincere attempts at redemption, (starting without hope of reward) anyway. Killing raiders and adult enemies is, well, what adventurers do.

jupistar wrote:
If one of these species makes itself clear that it is an aberration, then it's proper to give it a possible chance to survive. But the default position should be to defeat these enemies of Good, even in the face of surrender, because "surrender" to an evil creature means, "Let me live so I can do something rotten again". And I think we agree on that.

For the most part, yeah. Surrendered enemies should be interrogated, and any promises made to them kept (because, y'know, honor), but that just means you don't promise to let them go. If you run into, say, one of those beaten-down-but-not-really-Evil ones (unlikely but possible), you handle that as a special case, but as a rule, you kill 'em.

None of this just applies to children, IMO.

jupistar wrote:
Now, I temper all that with, we don't kill orcs on sight, although we might expel them from our lands, because we don't want to start a war with them. There is a standoff in the form of mutual fear of self-destruction (not fear of mutual self-destruction). We have an uneasy truce with the orcs that we don't want to unbalance because we don't know that we can take them. He who has the gun, makes the rules. If everyone has a gun, well, guns make for respectful neighbors. When you're facing off against evil and evil has a better chance of success than you, you don't choose to provoke it unless you have no other choice (they're committing atrocities or they're developing an unacceptable advantage [numbers, weaponry]).

Something like that, yeah.

Grand Lodge

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

In Pathfinder, evil is a supernatural, abstract force. Evil is more than just anti-social and selfish behaviors, it is a strong desire to inflict suffering onto others.

Actually it's both. Sometimes it's a Horror From the Lower Planes, an Unspeakable From Beyond.

And sometimes it's just people being bastards.


Oooh ooh I know:

Additional Rules, CRB wrote:
Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.

HTH :D


Firstly, I think that comparisons to Nazis should be avoided in discussions like these for two reasons 1) the practices of many monstrous races such as gnolls make the Nazis look like girl scouts 2)in my experience, as someone who has actually studied the subject, most people on these forums don't have any idea what in the heck they're talking about when referring to Hitler or the Nazi party.

I think to answer the question as to what evil is (for the purposes of an RPG), you first have to ask why they include alignments to begin with. The reason is that the classic moral conflict of good vs. evil is a staple of fantasy, from mythology to fairy tales to modern literature. It's a part of our cultural heritage, and is often used in stories to make moral points that aren't so easily made within real-world settings. D&D, being the grandchild of fantasy literature such as Lord of the Rings, is a natural inheritor of this pattern.

So, with this in mind, if the campaign follows the traditional pattern, evil is the force that opposes the PCs. The exact nature of the evil varies, but if the PCs are working for good, it is natural that their enemies be evil.

There are different kinds of evil, and the fact that evil can come in different forms, from different sources may be part of the confusion.

1) There are creatures in D&D, such as undead and evil outsiders that are inherently evil. Whether infused with negative energy (a powerful harmful to all forms of life) or evil made manifest in a corporeal form, unless the DM treats them differently, evil is as much a part of these creatures as green is part of lime jello.

2) Some actions are done with selfish or malicious intent. Regardless of the outcome, the motivation behind the action is evil, rendering the action evil. Saving a hundred children from a burning building isn't a good deed if you were only doing it to keep yourself from getting thrown in jail after accidentally starting the fire in the first place.

3) Some actions are inherently evil, regardless of intent. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Now, just how lawful a character is (or a player for that matter) determines whether or not they would determine whether the circumstances can mitigate or even justify the means. For example, stealing is always wrong (or at the least, unlawful), as it harms another, but is it simply the lesser of two evils if the alternative is starvation for someone? I'd say so, but nothing can make that act good. As a more extreme example, if a Paladin can save a thousand innocents by torturing one evil minion, should he do it? I would say it is up to the player of the character to decide. As a DM, I would make said paladin receive an atonement (I probably wouldn't make him lose class abilities, simply get the spell asap) to cleanse the blood from his hands.

I'm not going to argue about what actions are inherently evil and what ones aren't. I'd cite the 10 commandments as a reference, and you can play lawyer with somebody else if you like. A quick and easy guide to evil, for playing your character and as a gm:

4)Follow your conscience. If it doesn't sit well with you, there's a good chance it's evil. Does it make your spine crawl when the paladin says he's going to burn down the temple of Lamashtu that has various monstrous infants inside?....I'd listen to your inhibitions.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
I've been involved in a number of (usually sci-fi) discussions of non-human intelligences, and sentience is basically not allowed in such discussions, as it is too easily argued to apply to things like cats or hyenas (who, after all, meet the technical criteria, as they are capable of percieving the world around them), forcing the use of sapience as an alternate term for the concept in question.

Unfortunately, granting them "sapience" begs the question. Like free will, this is a broad discussion older than me and would cause us to debate at length what constitutes "personhood". I wonder if we can just use "reasoning" as a stopgap measure. Even animals reason, but in a very limited sense. And the greater their reasoning capacity, the closer they seem to persons (lizards vs. dogs vs. gorillas vs. chimpanzees).

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Animals can absolutely be trained to overcome their instincts. As when you train a wolf to herd sheep without hurting them (very doable). You're quite correct that we're far more capable of self-training than they are, though. I was never arguing that animals were as capable of ignoring their instincts as people, just that they could, and that most of the reasons we're better at it are entirely tied to our sapience (or sentience, or whatever we're calling it now).

I originally said, "some animals", as I don't think you can train birds or lizards to overcome their instincts (although you can train them to routines). But again, I clearly wonder about the notion that instincts can be trained away. I mean, in reality, aren't you just changing the creature's perceptions ("nothing to fear here") via desensitization or teaching an animal that they can achieve a greater benefit doing one thing than doing another (appealing to different instincts)?

The point was only to show that there is clearly a rational, creative vision of another specie being more weak-willed (more slavish to their instincts, over better judgment) than is the human norm. In fact, I've known people just like that--someone close to me, all through his life from childhood to adulthood, has had a very hard time learning to care about long term consequences (even serious consequences that would occur just hours later) in favor of benefits in the now--even with people standing by to counsel him. To this day, he has this problem. He makes a perfect case for a goblin-type of species who responds to the now stimuli and doesn't easily overcome it. Like my dog, who knows not to chase a cat and is normally very well-behaved (read: trained), but sometimes, the instinct gets too strong and she jumps against the leash. This is the specie that rarely has the strength to overcome their instincts.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
All more or less agreed actually, though I'll note that with reincarnation explicitly allowed you have to acknowledge the possibility of prior experiences by a reincarnated soul affecting it's behavior in it's current body, if only on a subconcious level.

I'm with you on that.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Yeah, I think we've got some definite agreement here. And I'd note that a Drow, Goblin, or Orc wouldn't even need to be non-Evil to be considered a success in terms of existing in society, just an individual who bought into the social contract and wasn't actively inimical to others for the most part. An entirely self-centered attitude isn't necessarily contraindicted by that, though obviously you're aiming for a Good alignment when you try this.

I would only note that evil tends to care about law/order only insomuch as it is either philosophical belief, a disorder like OCPD, or because it simply benefits them in some way. Typically, evil will break the law when it can get away with it, even if it's usually a lawful person. So, even acceptance of the social contract is usually not 100% commitment to it. The point, of course, is that I really want to see non-evil out of these races before I'm going to accept, on faith, their EoR commitment.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Yeah, I'm on board and in agreement here. That's really all I'm talking about. Are they almost all evil? Yes. Every last one on some profound level so it's okay to slaughter their babies? No.

So, really, this becomes our only point of contention and not a very large one. For your position, you have to first accept the vision that there is a reasonable likelihood of redemption for goblin young, drow young, aboleth young (do they still spawn?), gnoll young, and/or orc young.

Either way, I understand you, you understand me. And you understand why I take issue with the OP's comment, "I have read arguments on the board like: 'that race is evil, it is ok to kill them'. That sends cold shivers down my spine, since it is the Nazi argument."

There is a legitimate vision where a specie is evil enough that it is justified to kill even their spawn on sight, it's just not a palatable vision (or a palatable activity, no enjoyment is to be found in killing the young of any species, even non-reasoning creatures, such as scorpion spawn).

And there is a legitimate vision where a specie is evil enough that it is justified to kill their adults on sight in the hopes that trained and enlightened individuals could take in and nurture their young to a good result. But, if you kill the adults, then you have a responsibility to take charge of all the young and make sure they are delivered to said enlightened and trained individuals.

All of this is predicated on the pragmatic notion that 99.99% of these creatures are evil when encountered and left unharassed will very likely result in the (gruesome) deaths of the innocent and the good. It's the transference of "humanity" to goblinkin and aboleths and drow that makes the waters quite muddy and over-emotional.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

"Evil begins when you begin treating people like things." - Granny Weatherwax


Sir Cirdan wrote:
Firstly, I think that comparisons to Nazis should be avoided in discussions like these for two reasons 1) the practices of many monstrous races such as gnolls make the Nazis look like girl scouts 2)in my experience, as someone who has actually studied the subject, most people on these forums don't have any idea what in the heck they're talking about when referring to Hitler or the Nazi party.

A third and more relevant reason, in my opinion, is that it's simply not analagous. Nazism was about racial superiority and human progress. It's goals were not inherently evil, but it's attitudes, intents and methods to achieve it's goals clearly were. But the issue of killing of evil species is a discussion about opposition to evil. Opposition to evil like Nazism, only referencing evil species, instead of evil ideologies.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
So, with this in mind, if the campaign follows the traditional pattern, evil is the force that opposes the PCs. The exact nature of the evil varies, but if the PCs are working for good, it is natural that their enemies be evil.

Evil does typically oppose the PCs, but that's not what makes it evil. Evil is objectively determined by the fantasy setting, the RPG, and the DM. It's not defined as "opposition to the PCs". Maybe that's not what you meant, but that's the way I read it.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
There are different kinds of evil, and the fact that evil can come in different forms, from different sources may be part of the confusion.

The greatest confusion arises when people aren't clear and objective in their thinking: equating a species who's members are 99.99% evil with species that aren't, equating modern-day conceptions of racial genocide with the destruction of evil monsters, equating the offspring of evil species with the offspring of good species. There is a great deal of transference in these people's minds that I don't know how to overcome.

Some people find ways to make that plausible, but they do so at the risk of being reasonable. Take my friend Deadmanwalking: He would prefer to avoid the repugnancy of "killing goblin babies" because it's too similar in his mind to "killing human babies". Why is that? Because of a muddied conflation of reasoning creatures (my opinion, he might disagree).

His argument goes, "If they reason, then they likely are capable of overcoming their instincts and thus are moral creatures. If they reason, then their offspring are likely able to be swayed to a neutral or, at the very least, a workable (lawful) evil outlook." And there's nothing wrong with this, except it's not in-keeping with the nature of the thing itself. Why believe that creatures, 99.99% of which are evil, are "likely capable of overcoming their instincts"? It's just desirable to view these creatures this way so that the dilemma,"do we kill goblin offspring" is responded to with a "no". It's a feel-good position and I can understand it.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
1) There are creatures in D&D, such as undead and evil outsiders that are inherently evil. Whether infused with negative energy (a powerful harmful to all forms of life) or evil made manifest in a corporeal form, unless the DM treats them differently, evil is as much a part of these creatures as green is part of lime jello.

Sure, anything inherently hostile to the Goodly Species [GS] (and even Evil Species [ES]) is considered evil and should be opposed. The question is whether or not a species like goblins and trolls are inherently hostile to GS (and ES), my contention is that they are.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
2) Some actions are done with selfish or malicious intent. Regardless of the outcome, the motivation behind the action is evil, rendering the action evil. Saving a hundred children from a burning building isn't a good deed if you were only doing it to keep yourself from getting thrown in jail after accidentally starting the fire in the first place.

Your meaning is correct, but your language is off. Of course it's a good deed, it just doesn't make you a good person.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
3) Some actions are inherently evil,...but is it simply the lesser of two evils...

In my opinion, moral relativism has very little relevance to a D&D world where we all agree on objective truths so that we can play the same game. For example, in my world, stealing can be good if the greatest good is achieved in the process. Deontological attitudes are great for codifying law and ethics, but not about determining goodness. I take a very utilitarian, consequentialist view of things when trying to determine the good of a thing (separately, but both intent and deed). Utilitarian consequentialism is the source upon which deontological conclusions are based.

Sir Cirdan wrote:
4)Follow your conscience...

Your conscience is a decent guide, but will consistently get things wrong as "brain bugs" skew your perception of things. Much like the OP when he equated killing an evil specie as "racial genocide like the Nazi's promoted". Much like your own example: "Does it make your spine crawl when the paladin says he's going to burn down the temple of Lamashtu that has various monstrous infants inside?" Yes, it might, but I would say with reasoning, "It has to be done for the good of the world."

Imagine if, in your example, they were shoggoth spawn or aboleth spawn. That's not much different from goblin spawn or troll spawn, unless these latter species in your fantasy world are not inherently evil (genetically or spiritually), just skewed that way. People who use intuition and emotional response as their guide to moral choices might make many bad choices as their emotions can be generated from poor perceptions of reality.


Mikaze wrote:
"Evil begins when you begin treating people like things." - Granny Weatherwax

I can quote, too. :)

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
Albert Einstein wrote:
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.
Socrates wrote:
False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
Plato wrote:
To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might have the less.

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