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Do two Goods make an Evil one?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


Let's say that in your campaign the setting has a millennia old religion, and that the overwhelming majority of its adherents are classed as various shades of the "Good" alignment. They care for each other, offer help to others when they can, and defend their livelihoods against darkness and Evil.

Now, a new religion has appeared (via settlers from another land or missionaries sent to the region). The overwhelming majority of its adherents are likewise classed as "Good" for all the same reasons as the native faith, but one of its basic tenets is that its followers must do all they can to wipe out "false" or "pagan" gods and convert the natives. They burn and destroy priceless relics, desecrate or demolish places that are sacred to the natives, destroy the written works of philosophy, religion, history, etc., even destroying beautiful structures and works of art in the name of their faith. Worst of all, if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured, and murdered for their "heresies".

The natives push back, plundering the new temples, burning settlements belonging to the newcomers, and killing the invaders and their families in an effort to drive them back to where they came from and preserve their way of life.

So my question is this: Both, according the mechanics of the game, are considered to be "Good", yet they commit atrocity after atrocity to each other. Are they still Good, or have they changed to become an evil culture?


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BATMAN!


Just remember the ancient rules of good and evil math. Two good added, multiplied and divided together always equal good. Two evils added equal evil. Two evils multiplied or divided together equal a good. HOWEVER, things get tricky when you subtract two goods or two evils.

~GRINS~

Grand Lodge

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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
. Worst of all, if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured..

This is where they stop being good. The natives are still ok, though


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~grins~ Sorry. I just always wanted to say that.

Shadow Lodge

First off, this is pretty blatant flamebait because what's intended here is kinda obvious ;) I'll give you a straight answer though.

There's nothing Evil about either religion, even including the tenant to "convert worshipers of false/pagan deities and reduce their faithful". However, I would say the destruction of property and possessions and torture and murder of those unwilling to convert are Evil actions, and not in-line with the Good teachings of their faith. (This is my opinion on the obvious real-world analogue of your question, as well. Convert and persuade? Not bad. Kill or destroy those who refuse? Not Good at all.)

The natives I would not say are acting in an Evil manner at the basics, as they're responding to force with force in self-defense. However, if they had attacked the newcomers unprovoked, I would consider them acting Evilly, and also out of sync with their religion. And even acting in self-defense they risk sliding toward Evil if they take their actions too far, attacking innocents or defenseless people just because they're members of the opposing faith/culture.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

Let's say that in your campaign the setting has a millennia old religion, and that the overwhelming majority of its adherents are classed as various shades of the "Good" alignment. They care for each other, offer help to others when they can, and defend their livelihoods against darkness and Evil.

Now, a new religion has appeared (via settlers from another land or missionaries sent to the region). The overwhelming majority of its adherents are likewise classed as "Good" for all the same reasons as the native faith, but one of its basic tenets is that its followers must do all they can to wipe out "false" or "pagan" gods and convert the natives. They burn and destroy priceless relics, desecrate or demolish places that are sacred to the natives, destroy the written works of philosophy, religion, history, etc., even destroying beautiful structures and works of art in the name of their faith. Worst of all, if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured, and murdered for their "heresies".

The natives push back, plundering the new temples, burning settlements belonging to the newcomers, and killing the invaders and their families in an effort to drive them back to where they came from and preserve their way of life.

So my question is this: Both, according the mechanics of the game, are considered to be "Good", yet they commit atrocity after atrocity to each other. Are they still Good, or have they changed to become an evil culture?

This reminds me of a game of Galactic civ 2, that was truly memorable. I was the neutral anti-war faction. Generally a pretty good guy, had some minor evil worlds which I protected and traded with. The real evil major powers grew mighty, and almost swept over all, but neutral and good allied and we eventually thrashed them hard. Took some planets, ruined their ambitions. I stopped warring and consolidated. Good didn't. Good kept going, entirely conquered and assimilated them. Refused to stop. Then there was only good and neutral (and its alliance) left.

Good ended up attacking neutral, because they wanted to end the little evil worlds of the Snathi, which I was protecting. The Snathi never hurt anyone, in the realm of intergalactic politics. So they attacked and killed, and almost got them, before the allies of the Snathi arrived to save the day and drive back the do-gooders.

Things got ugly, the war dragged on. Good refused to back off, it didn't even have to kneel, just accept the peace. It would not. It saw neutral, peaceful and contemplative neutral as truly evil. The capital planets were knocked out to stop the near endless stream of fighter craft. Still good did not give in. Ended up having to destroy or occupy good to stop their damn crusade. Then I turned most of the planets over to Snathi control and the other neutral they had declared war on.

So yes, out of an urge to do good, great evil can be done.


I didn't intend for it to be flamebait, despite the obvious references, so please everyone keep the "real" stuff out of the thread.

I posed this question as I'm considering such a thing in my 20+ year old homebrew which actually features very few deities, with most people following individual "paths" (even clerics, by simply choosing their Domains as part of there journey). What few actual deities exist are holdovers from older cultures or are worshiped in secret by obscure sects or cults. I'm thinking of making this a whole new story arc for my players.

Shadow Lodge

Just seems dangerously close is all, if it wasn't intended that way my apologies.

It sounds like your campaign divorces the alignment of the priesthood from the deity somewhat, allowing them to act Evilly while still receiving divine empowerment? Correct me if I'm wrong. But that would allow them to get away with doing Evil actions like this, while retaining their abilities and - supposedly - the favor and approval of their patron. If that's what you're going for, then it works.


Orthos wrote:

Just seems dangerously close is all, if it wasn't intended that way my apologies.

It sounds like your campaign divorces the alignment of the priesthood from the deity somewhat, allowing them to act Evilly while still receiving divine empowerment? Correct me if I'm wrong. But that would allow them to get away with doing Evil actions like this, while retaining their abilities and - supposedly - the favor and approval of their patron. If that's what you're going for, then it works.

No need to apologize at all!

You've hit on one of the quandaries that I'm having to resolve. We all know that in our modern religions that truly evil individuals have acted in the name of their faith, all the while believing what they're doing is right. Of course, real world religions don't grant their followers "phenomenal cosmic powers". So I'm trying to figure out a way for the worshipers in both faiths to commit these actions while still receiving the boons of their beliefs.


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The biggest difference between the real world and D & D is that a diety would have ways to enforce their will. If you stray too far, you get punished. (i.e. - no spells and divine retribution.) Now, having said that, the big question is, how much do the faithful alter their diety. If they can alter the diety by changing themselves, then the god can become "crazy" or "evil" over time as the faithful stray further and further from the "one true way".

Shadow Lodge

Alternatively, perhaps the handing out of divine power is a little more permanent than normal for D&D. Perhaps it can only be severed by mutual agreement, as it can also be gained only by mutual agreement. The deity may disapprove of his cleric's actions, but until the cleric's faith is broken the divine bond can't be severed; likewise the cleric might have a crisis of faith, but if his god thinks he's still doing the right thing he might refuse to let the cleric go. Only when the god is disappointed/angry/etc. at the cleric and no longer wants his service and the cleric has lost his belief/converted to another religion/otherwise abandoned his faith can the divine bond be completely lost.

Osirion Contributor

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If you make at least some of the gods that are perceived as good actually neutral, you get some leeway. For example, if a god of civilization is Lawful Neutral, and most of his worshipers are lawful neutral, you could have some lawful good clerics and paladins(who want to bring the benefits of civilization to everyone as peacefully as possible, for the true improvement of all) and some lawful evil clerics and inquisitors (who want to convert the savages because they're savages and will go to any legal length to do so).

If the pagans have a chaotic neutral god of nature and the wild places, not only are his chaotic neutral and true neutral worshipers not going to get along with ANY of the lawful types, his chaotic good clerics may well paint all the god of civilizations followers with a broad brush of mistrust and fear after running into a few lawful evil inquisitors with divinely granted powers.

Then the fighting between those factions spreads to actually good deities and worshipers on both sides, and while no one gets away with regular torture and keeps a good alignment, you can have two groups of good characters fighting each other without losing their powers.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

If the wellbeing of the gods in your setting depend on their worshippers, a god or culture based around grabbing ALL the worshippers should probably be falling out of Good territory right out of the gate considering their goals include killing all of the other gods, who may very well be alright people, if not better than the god in question. If someone absolutely cannot abide the existance of a decent god of INSERT POSITIVE THING HERE and acts to kill them off, I'd figure they're already in the Evil Zone.

(definitely evil on the part of those engaging in forced conversion, coercion, and torture btw)


Tangibly relevant: one of the D&D Gnome Gods, Baravar Cloakshadow, is NG and has as part of His dogma: kill all the Kobolds.

I always wondered how that would work, a genocidal Paladin...


Alignment in the real world is very subjective. Almost everyone sees themselves as a version of Good (though they are a bit more accepting of whether they are C, N, or L on the other axis). Not almost everyone is actually Good, but they would consider themselves to be, and by their definition of it, they are. Religions clashing as you described it is a good example of this.

This cannot work in a system where there are effects that directly call on alignment. Alignment in Pathfinder has to be objective - you have a religion trying to wipe out any other group of people because their belief system demands it, and they are LN or LE. They might perceive themselves as LG or at least some version of Good, but they would register for all mechanical purposes as the other two.

This falls apart when you consider spells like Detect Alignment (like, how does an entire religion not realize none of them are Good if a 1st level spell can reveal that they are not), but that's just the way it is. Maybe the god granting them abilities is specifically modifying the version of Detect Evil being passed down to the clerics and paladins (though paladins are yet again another conundrum with this) to specifically show any of the worshipers not evil. Maybe the people who get access to this know that they are evil (or at least not Good) and still choose to follow their beliefs and don't tell anyone.

Osirion Contributor

Vendis wrote:
This falls apart when you consider spells like Detect Alignment (like, how does an entire religion not realize none of them are Good if a 1st level spell can reveal that they are not)

It's not that bad, actually. especially in lower-level games

For example, if the god is Lawful Good, a LN cleric detects as LG as a result of his aura, regardless of the cleric's actual alignment.

Similarly if the god is LN, it can be argued RAW says his good and evil priests detect as LN. (Aura says "A cleric of a chaotic, evil, good, or lawful deity has a particularly powerful aura corresponding to the deity’s alignment." Since his alignment is LN, that's their aura)

A chaotic evil inquisitor or oracle has no aura to detect evil spells, because they don't have an aura feature and aligned creatures of that level just don't detect (as per the spell).


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

Now, a new religion has appeared (via settlers from another land or missionaries sent to the region). The overwhelming majority of its adherents are likewise classed as "Good" for all the same reasons as the native faith, but one of its basic tenets is that its followers must do all they can to wipe out "false" or "pagan" gods and convert the natives. They burn and destroy priceless relics, desecrate or demolish places that are sacred to the natives, destroy the written works of philosophy, religion, history, etc., even destroying beautiful structures and works of art in the name of their faith. Worst of all, if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured, and murdered for their "heresies".

The second religion does not meet the defintion of good. The bolded tenet exercised as described cannot be reconciled with the injunction that good include "altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings." Characters acting according to the bolded tenet in the manner described would be acting evilly in acting to "debase or destroy innocent life." A religion can still be good with an injunction to convert, but only if the conversion process includes "respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings" which would certainly not cover "burn and destroy priceless relics, desecrate or demolish places that are sacred to the natives, destroy the written works of philosophy, religion, history, etc., even destroying beautiful structures and works of art in the name of their faith ... if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured, and murdered for their "heresies"."

This is the great weakness of Good which drives otherwise Good people to Evil, Good can only react and must tolerate evil persons until they act in an evil fashion. In your example, if the natives were to 'push back' in a manner which included punishing adherents of the new (evil) religion who were innocent of evil acts then the native religion (or at least it's practitioners who punish innocents) would become evil.


Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Vendis wrote:
This falls apart when you consider spells like Detect Alignment (like, how does an entire religion not realize none of them are Good if a 1st level spell can reveal that they are not)

It's not that bad, actually. especially in lower-level games

For example, if the god is Lawful Good, a LN cleric detects as LG as a result of his aura, regardless of the cleric's actual alignment.

Similarly if the god is LN, it can be argued RAW says his good and evil priests detect as LN. (Aura says "A cleric of a chaotic, evil, good, or lawful deity has a particularly powerful aura corresponding to the deity’s alignment." Since his alignment is LN, that's their aura)

A chaotic evil inquisitor or oracle has no aura to detect evil spells, because they don't have an aura feature and aligned creatures of that level just don't detect (as per the spell).

You know, I never thought of that - the aura does call out that they detect as their god's alignment. I am supposing that their actual alignment is overridden (once they get high enough level to actually register), but that'd probably be up for debate.

That does explain some stuff to me. Thanks, O.

The only problem is the followers who are just as committed to the belief system but don't have levels in a class that grants the aura class feature.

Osirion Contributor

Vendis wrote:
You know, I never thought of that - the aura does call out that they detect as their god's alignment. I am supposing that their actual alignment is overridden (once they get high enough level to actually register), but that'd probably be up for debate.

Yeah, that's the tricky bit. for a LN cleric of a LG good he clearly detects as LG, since there is no [/i]detect neutral[/i] spell. The question of whether a LE cleric of a LN god detects as LN and LE, or just LN is a more complex one.

Vendis wrote:
That does explain some stuff to me. Thanks, O.

My pleasure. :)

Vendis wrote:
The only problem is the followers who are just as committed to the belief system but don't have levels in a class that grants the aura class feature.

Again, as long as they are 5th level or less this isn't an issue since they have no alignment aura. So it becomes a question of how common higher-level off-message worshipers are, and how often they get detected upon.

Qadira

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Vendis wrote:


This falls apart when you consider spells like Detect Alignment (like, how does an entire religion not realize none of them are Good if a 1st level spell can reveal that they are not), but that's just the way it is.

Why would you check? Why would you believe anyone from outside the faith who claimed to have cast the spell and disputed your goodliness?

@DMCal - In the wash, both cultures are neutral. They do some good and they do some evil according to necessity. One possibility is that for the most zealous cleansers of the heretics, it's no longer the god that they think it is that is granting their spells.


This is why terms like Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos, terms so highly subjective, can only be used to within a limited margin of accuracy. What's good to one culture isn't good to other cultures; opposing sides in wars often see themselves as good and the enemy as evil. Same thing goes for Law/Chaos. What's legal in one country isn't necessarily legal in another. What one group views as random chaos another views as an organized pattern with complexity beyond the understanding of most. It would be better if they were replaced by more objective terms.

I prefer to think of the G-N-E axis as Cooperative/Independent/Competitive and the L-N-C axis as Conservative/Liberal/Radical. These terms maintain the desired connotations but take subjectivity and regional concerns mostly out of the equation. In this sense, the Native culture could be seen as Conservative/Cooperative; they value tradition and predictability and they act cooperatively towards their goals. The incoming group can be seen as either Liberal/Cooperative or Radical/Cooperative depending on whether they desire change and novelty for the benefit it can give over traditional ways or just for the sake of change and novelty. And, in keeping with the idea of "alligned religions", adherents can go one step along either axis. A native could be Conservative/Independent or Liberal/Cooperative. And I'm sure there are Inquisitors on both sides who are bending the rules of each religion to the limit to accomplish their goals.


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Except that's not how it works in D&D/PF. The gods are real. Good and Evil, Law and Chaos are not subjective terms. They are real things.
Laws change from one country to another, but the principal of Law doesn't. What is good and what is evil do not change.

Good countries might fight each other, do to misunderstandings or from need, resource limitations still exist. They might even believe themselves good and the others evil, but they would be wrong.


thejeff wrote:

Except that's not how it works in D&D/PF. The gods are real. Good and Evil, Law and Chaos are not subjective terms. They are real things.

Laws change from one country to another, but the principal of Law doesn't. What is good and what is evil do not change.

Good countries might fight each other, do to misunderstandings or from need, resource limitations still exist. They might even believe themselves good and the others evil, but they would be wrong.

It's a poor contrivance and I, for one, just don't buy it. The gods of D&D/PF, or any other fantasy realm, for that matter, are, themselves, subjective constructs. Two different "good" gods will decide for themselves what their particular brand of "good" entails. It extends right down to the mortal level; one person may find it "good" to execute a criminal while another considers it "good" to spare him. Both are good and both are mutually exclusive meaning that "good" is subjective and the same, by extension, applies to "evil". From an absolutist sense, there is no such thing as "Chaos"; the universe (or, by extension, the planes of a multi-verse) all must obey the absolute laws of existence. The gods may or may not know all of those laws but they are still subject to them. Mortals presumably are privy to far less knowledge of these laws than gods. But the these laws are absolute regardless of the circumstance, so everyone would be lawful because no one, not even the gods, would be capable of going against those laws. Hence the alignment of Law/Chaos is moot because there technically is no possible chaotic alignment in the absolute sense and Good/Evil are still subjective.

And if the status quo of games like this is as you claim, it's even more of a reason to change that status quo.


HAN SOLO SHOT FIRST!


VRMH wrote:

Tangibly relevant: one of the D&D Gnome Gods, Baravar Cloakshadow, is NG and has as part of His dogma: kill all the Kobolds.

I always wondered how that would work, a genocidal Paladin...

I've heard this before. But it becomes an evil act if the Gnome starts to kill good kobolds or neutral kobolds that don't want to fight.


One of the things I really liked about Green Ronin's "Hamunaptra" setting is that the gods don't have alignments listed. Sure, certain classes might "cluster" around certain gods, but by and large it's open season on alignment choices.


A faith cannot say murder and torture those of other faiths and still be considered good.

It could, however, say to destroy other faiths and remain good.

The difference is in method. Destroying something could mean converting an opposing faith, financially/politically destabilizing it, etc. Of course, some of the more zealous could interpret "destroy" to mean murder or worse. Those zealots would most definitely be evil, even if their faith is good (which also means they aren't likely to have cleric levels, but rather other class levels--as they could still be priests even without magic).

Shadow Lodge

The question then is "does the religion ITSELF - the dogma of the deity, NOT the interpretations or actions of the clergy/followers - command the forceful eradication and torture of nonbelievers? Or does it merely say to convert them?" If the former, RD is correct, it cannot be good. If the latter, then the religion itself is fine, but the followers are failing to live up to their deity's standards.


Orthos wrote:
The question then is "does the religion ITSELF - the dogma of the deity, NOT the interpretations or actions of the clergy/followers - command the forceful eradication and torture of nonbelievers? Or does it merely say to convert them?" If the former, RD is correct, it cannot be good. If the latter, then the religion itself is fine, but the followers are failing to live up to their deity's standards.

So, let me ask this: If the followers are failing to live up the deity's standards, especially priests, for example, would they still receive the spells and other abilities their deity grants and when they die suffer the consequences of the deity's judgement?

Shadow Lodge

It depends on how the divine bond works in your setting.

Under normal PF/D&D rules, they'd probably get the boot for straying too far from their god's tenants, and/or get some kind of vision or direct visitation from a celestial or herald or other heavenly servitor to give them the ultimatum. Something that very clearly and directly sends the message of "Hey, you guys are Doing It Wrong, stop it. Teach and convert, not murder and rampage. Thou Shalt Not Kill, remember? What kinda holy man are you anyway?"

If your setting's divine magic works differently, such as my above post about requiring mutual consent between the cleric's own wavering/broken faith and the god's dismissal of his former servant, then they could very well still have their powers through their own mistaken belief in their own holiness, despite their deity being unhappy with their actions. They'd keep their spellcasting, but I'm very very certain a rather unfortunate fate awaits them post-mortem. ("But Lord, haven't we in your name done all these wonderful works?" "I have never known you, depart from me you workers of iniquity!")

ALTERNATIVELY, they could be unknowingly receiving spells from a new patron, an evil deity (and probably enemy of their former patron) who would love to see the good god's name badly smeared by his "followers'" actions. Kind of like a paladin who falls but doesn't realize he has, because some evil deity picked up the bill for the antipaladin class abilities.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Orthos wrote:
The question then is "does the religion ITSELF - the dogma of the deity, NOT the interpretations or actions of the clergy/followers - command the forceful eradication and torture of nonbelievers? Or does it merely say to convert them?" If the former, RD is correct, it cannot be good. If the latter, then the religion itself is fine, but the followers are failing to live up to their deity's standards.
So, let me ask this: If the followers are failing to live up the deity's standards, especially priests, for example, would they still receive the spells and other abilities their deity grants and when they die suffer the consequences of the deity's judgement?

Not every member of the church (or whatever the faith calls it) will be a spellcaster. In fact, only the most devout members probably are granted the boon of divine casting.

As such, my answer would be "no, they don't get spells" and "yes, they would suffer divine retribution" (if that's the deity's thing).

For the remainder of the thread, it might be best to clarify terms/set context. "Priest" implies a member of the clergy who is NOT a spellcaster. A "cleric" or possibly an "Adept," on the other hand, IS a member of the clergy AND a spellcaster.


Orthos wrote:
ALTERNATIVELY, they could be unknowingly receiving spells from a new patron, an evil deity (and probably enemy of their former patron) who would love to see the good god's name badly smeared by his "followers'" actions. Kind of like a paladin who falls but doesn't realize he has, because some evil deity picked up the bill for the antipaladin class abilities.

THIS I like!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
VRMH wrote:

Tangibly relevant: one of the D&D Gnome Gods, Baravar Cloakshadow, is NG and has as part of His dogma: kill all the Kobolds.

I always wondered how that would work, a genocidal Paladin...

I'd vote for "not at all". I prefer to think the "E" in Baravar's alignment apparently got rendered wrong in the printing. It's a bit fitting too, since NE is the same alignment as the Obcisidaemon, which is right up that guy's alley.

Y'know, Garl Glittergold was a real nasty piece of work himself when one gets right down to it... Crushing countless kobolds as a "prank" for working too hard. Yeesh.

In some parts of the history of the game it felt like the bar for Good was set exceedingly low. And sometimes it felt like Good was treated as nothing mor than a team designation with about as much moral weight as "Red" or "Blue".


Regardless of the mechanical game effects: detectable alignments or spell loss, you'd think a deity whose faith was headed off in the wrong direction would notice and do something about it.

Isolated clergy might be overlooked or left to the rest of the church to sort out, but if the whole church was ignoring the god's tenets, I'd expect the god to act.

Withdrawing powers, creating Oracles to preach the true faith, prophetic messages, all the way up to sending angelic messengers or direct manifestation.
Similarly with the "unknowingly receiving spells from a new patron" thing. That's going to be dealt with before it gets out of hand.

If you're going for a very remote, non-interventionist set of deities, it could work. In traditional high fantasy settings, religions are assumed to stay close to their gods beliefs.

I'm not sure what the point of having actual deities is, if their religions aren't going to have anything to do with the gods. Just have your clerics empowered by their own faith or something.

Shadow Lodge

Mikaze wrote:

Y'know, Garl Glittergold was a real nasty piece of work himself when one gets right down to it... Crushing countless kobolds as a "prank" for working too hard. Yeesh.

In some parts of the history of the game it felt like the bar for Good was set exceedingly low.

Yeah, I never cared for Garl much after learning this bit of his history. Prior to it I just thought him a good-hearted trickster god and a patron who could legitimately sponsor paladins who had a good sense of humor.

Then I started liking kobolds a lot, then I learned about their backstory and the source of their rivalry with gnomes, and Garl lost a lot of his glittergold.

Quote:
And sometimes it felt like Good was treated as nothing mor than a team designation with about as much moral weight as "Red" or "Blue".

I think it was more "Good = PC races. Evil = Monster races." Because when you think about it, all the primary racial deities for PC races were good, prior to Golarion. Yondalla, Garl, and Moradin were LG, Corellon was CG, and those four were present in both Greyhawk and FR, which was all I was ever really exposed to (outside homebrew) until Golarion came along. Humans have never had a racial deity, and Half-Orcs were expected to reject their orcish heritage and thus Gruumsh being CE was supposed to represent the part of themselves they were rebelling against, plus the fact that pureblood Orcs were always-evil-never-PCs.

Shadow Lodge

thejeff wrote:

Regardless of the mechanical game effects: detectable alignments or spell loss, you'd think a deity whose faith was headed off in the wrong direction would notice and do something about it.

Isolated clergy might be overlooked or left to the rest of the church to sort out, but if the whole church was ignoring the god's tenets, I'd expect the god to act.

Withdrawing powers, creating Oracles to preach the true faith, prophetic messages, all the way up to sending angelic messengers or direct manifestation.
Similarly with the "unknowingly receiving spells from a new patron" thing. That's going to be dealt with before it gets out of hand.

I agree. I'm rather curious what Cal has in mind for this. Fracturing the church along the lines of moderates vs. extremists is going to be an obvious result, but what do the extremists do when God is actually involved enough to send a personal missive saying "Hey you guys are on the wrong side of the line"?

When God straight up tells you "I'm not giving you your powers anymore", how do you legitimately answer your ability to still cast? I suppose a sufficiently arrogant mortal might dare to say "I can still draw my powers from you because I know better than you how to interpret your commands", but that would probably end in a very swift divine smackdown.

Quote:
If you're going for a very remote, non-interventionist set of deities, it could work. In traditional high fantasy settings, religions are assumed to stay close to their gods beliefs.

This is kind of what I presumed he was going for, actually. Which makes the idea of D&D atheists - in the true sense, as someone who doesn't believe deities exist at all, rather than someone who deems them nothing more than very powerful outsiders and unworthy of worship - a little more reasonable mindset to have in a fantastical world where performing divinely-empowered miracles and receiving direct messages from heaven can happen at command. If the gods refuse to act directly, operating only (rather than primarily, as in most settings) through their clergy, a skeptic can write them off as particularly charismatic and deluded (or deliberately misleading) arcanists who have simply tapped into an otherwise-obscure set of spells to cast and gotten good at doing so in armor.


The philosophy of their religion may be "good", but the acts they are committing are not.

You have to decide, is "good" dictated by the divine, or is it a logical position on what is best for social order, growth, and happiness.

If "good" is whatever a god says it is, then they're still good. If good is independent of the thoughts of the divine, then they're "evil".


@Orthos and Mikaze:

I do prefer the higher powers in my setting to be more remote and removed from the day to day maintenance of their clergy. Occasionally, the deities might have enough and say, burn a wicked city to the ground or send an army of righteousness to raze a city to its foundations, leaving nothing alive. The deity gives its followers their powers as "tools", if you will, and what they do with those tools determines their eventual and eternal fate.

For the greatest bulk of the time my setting has existed I didn't use gods at all. Like I mentioned before, I created a "Path" system by which clerics decided on their own what Domains they felt would benefit the most people, or even themselves, depending on alignment. Certainly some of these priests or clerics would found a small sect of like-minded worshipers and teachers who would all work together for a common goal.


You should read Eberron and take inspiration to alter the fluff/mechanics of your world.

As dieties are distant and unproven in the context of that world
- All clerics are essentially clerics of a philosophy.
- You can have differing alignments:

Ex, one of the major NPCs in the world, obviously based on the fictionalized Cardinal Richelieu:
LE Cleric of the Silver Flame (A LG religion) who stamps out heretics and rebels with excessive zeal (torture [quietly] for information, executions [as examples]).
- he still follows the tenets of his religion
- probably wouldn't have paladins lasting around him too long.
- Still has the LG aura

Storywise, it's guys like this that give the silver flame a bad name in some places.

Clerics can still fall, however their powers remain as long as they keep the faith. An interesting story can be made that has the heroes shatter the bad guy's faith (and lose his powers) by showing him how far he's fallen.

People like this should be rare and not a common trope, though.

Paladins in Eberron are VERY rare, as it is so easy to fall in this world.


Orthos wrote:
Mikaze wrote:

Y'know, Garl Glittergold was a real nasty piece of work himself when one gets right down to it... Crushing countless kobolds as a "prank" for working too hard. Yeesh.

In some parts of the history of the game it felt like the bar for Good was set exceedingly low.

Yeah, I never cared for Garl much after learning this bit of his history. Prior to it I just thought him a good-hearted trickster god and a patron who could legitimately sponsor paladins who had a good sense of humor.

Then I started liking kobolds a lot, then I learned about their backstory and the source of their rivalry with gnomes, and Garl lost a lot of his glittergold.

Quote:
And sometimes it felt like Good was treated as nothing mor than a team designation with about as much moral weight as "Red" or "Blue".
I think it was more "Good = PC races. Evil = Monster races." Because when you think about it, all the primary racial deities for PC races were good, prior to Golarion. Yondalla, Garl, and Moradin were LG, Corellon was CG, and those four were present in both Greyhawk and FR, which was all I was ever really exposed to (outside homebrew) until Golarion came along. Humans have never had a racial deity, and Half-Orcs were expected to reject their orcish heritage and thus Gruumsh being CE was supposed to represent the part of themselves they were rebelling against, plus the fact that pureblood Orcs were always-evil-never-PCs.

Certainly right on the official line. It is why I've added more monster races and got rid of the Tolkien baggage.

On orcs though, they can make great pcs. Goblins are fantastic rogues.


Another point to consider is what the deity does if his power is based on the number of followers he has and that those followers are getting out of step with his original teachings. Does he adjust his mindset to match theirs so as to retain his power, or does he abandon/cast out his misguided ex-followers and hope that he and his faithful followers can prevail against whatever evil god takes over the unfaithful majority?

But I think I would agree that the conflict would work best if neither of the involved deities is actively good or evil. Their conflict could be over law vs. chaos, or over some other issue (in which case the followers of the two faiths could be absolutely indistinguishable in terms of alignment).


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
"They burn and destroy priceless relics, desecrate or demolish places that are sacred to the natives, destroy the written works of philosophy, religion, history, etc., even destroying beautiful structures and works of art in the name of their faith. Worst of all, if the natives refuse to convert, they are enslaved, tortured, and murdered for their "heresies".

I disagree that your religions are at all 'good'. They are not 'good' in the D&D alignment system (which admidately is rather stratified and can be limiting if you want a more 'real world' morality in your game) if they practice as you say above. The religion must be judged on ALL their actions and tenets and not just some.

Slavery, torture, murder, forced conversion, wanton destruction are the hallmarks of evil. While it may be an odd evil, it is still evil in the D&D alignment structure.


I think what I had meant to say was they both consider themselves "Good". Or maybe I said that. Nyquil, doncha know. lol

There are some great things to ponder in this thread, and I'm grateful that everyone kept it on topic rather have it dissolve into a flame war.

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