Different Ways to play alignments


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Pathfinder has a variety of alignments some more restrictive than others, I was wondering how many ways have people come up of playing alignments differently from the norm.

One way unusual way I have played Chaotic Evil was as the benevolent necromancer one who is generally a nice guy, wants to protect people and save small children but is unwilling to see the dark powers as anything but a tool to be used and so because he routinely uses dark magic his alignment is classed as evil. He is the sort of guy who heals party members with infernal healing and raises zombie armies to fight other evil wizards.


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In general I think the alignments are really designed to be kind of the broad strokes of your character.

Good/Evil is really a determining of WHAT your character thinks they should do in regards to others. So does your character want to help people, do they want to hurt people or do they just want to be left out of other peoples business.

Lawful/Chaotic is more to determine HOW they plan on doing it. Do they rely on authority to help them, do they believe that law and order just gets in the way. Or do they use the law only whe. It serves their purposes.

I could get into more detail, but that is the basics.

I don't believe you described a C/E person.


Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Aratrok wrote:
Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.

Yes it is. That's why it has the [Evil] descriptor.

Sovereign Court

This topic has already been covered in a different thread.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Aratrok wrote:
Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.
Yes it is. That's why it has the [Evil] descriptor.

Which is why the the guy killing neutral bystanders with Spear of Purity and then laughing at their misfortune is a saint, right?

Right?

Your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

Shadow Lodge

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Aratrok wrote:
Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.
Yes it is. That's why it has the [Evil] descriptor.

Well, killing a humanoid creature is generally considered an evil act, but there are circumstances in which it is also seen as morally acceptable or even virtuous.

Even if we assume that casting [Evil] spells is always an evil act no matter the circumstances or motivations, it's also the case that a character who performs minor evil acts and significant good acts is not automatically evil because of those evil acts.


Weirdo wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Aratrok wrote:
Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.
Yes it is. That's why it has the [Evil] descriptor.

Well, killing a humanoid creature is generally considered an evil act, but there are circumstances in which it is also seen as morally acceptable or even virtuous.

Even if we assume that casting [Evil] spells is always an evil act no matter the circumstances or motivations, it's also the case that a character who performs minor evil acts and significant good acts is not automatically evil because of those evil acts.

So you are saying that someone who is C/E would not be a "pretty nice guy"?

I think he could pretend to be a nice guy- but in reality he does not value other peoples lives and would have no problem killing one of those kids he's nice to if would benefit him.


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What appears to be the difference in how people interpret casting evil spells and using evil items is in how they understand alignment to behave in the Pathfinder game world.

I see constant arguments about "well if you use evil things for good, then it's not really evil" which even in this world is a sort of "ends justifies the means" argument which most ethicists would argue is a very tenuous argument to make.

But many of us interpret the game world to be one where alignment issues like good, evil, law and chaos are more fundamental aspects of the game world itself. In our estimation, according to how we understand the rules of the game, evil is an attribute of spells or items which are designated as evil. That means to use them means to literally take evil into your own hands and accept its power.

In that interpretation there is no "ends justifies the means" possible. To use an evil spell is by definition an evil act, no matter what the outcome.

To many people this just doesn't make sense because tools and items in the real world are just tools and items. A hammer isn't evil, no matter what you do with it.

But in Pathfinder an evil spell is evil. It is based on and draws its powers from evil. To use it is to exploit evil, which is in itself an acceptance and use of evil. Therefore it is an evil act.


Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.


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Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.

Pretty sure some Paizo employees disagree with each other on a pretty regular basis Rynjin.

Here is what the RAW says for evil spells:

evil wrote:
Evil: Spells that draw upon evil powers or conjure creatures from evil-aligned planes or with the evil subtype should have the evil descriptor.


Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.

Quote please?


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I think it is well recognized in lore of all variety that playing with dark magic is a slippery slope.

So while an individual use of an evil spell will not make you evil (like one cigarette does not give you cancer nor one drink makes you an alcoholic) the more you dabble with the dark arts the more likely you are to become evil.

So you can say the ends justify the means... but if they justify them too often you may find yourself to be evil without ever meaning to.

Its even true in this world! I know because I was a financial advisor and too much more of that would have twisted me into an evil monster. Now I'm in law school so I ... oh no.


Ol' Nejj wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.
Quote please?

LOL, seriously? You don't think there have been contradictory interpretations of RAW by Paizo employees? Wow.


Ubercroz wrote:

I think it is well recognized in lore of all variety that playing with dark magic is a slippery slope.

So while an individual use of an evil spell will not make you evil (like one cigarette does not give you cancer nor one drink makes you an alcoholic) the more you dabble with the dark arts the more likely you are to become evil.

So you can say the ends justify the means... but if they justify them too often you may find yourself to be evil without ever meaning to.

Its even true in this world! I know because I was a financial advisor and too much more of that would have twisted me into an evil monster. Now I'm in law school so I ... oh no.

Agreed, an individual act of evil doesn't make one evil, regardless of whether it's casting a spell, using a magic item or just committing a blatant act like stealing or cheating.

But the concept is that they add up. Using an evil spell regularly is not something that would make sense to me for a "good" character.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ubercroz wrote:

I think it is well recognized in lore of all variety that playing with dark magic is a slippery slope.

So while an individual use of an evil spell will not make you evil (like one cigarette does not give you cancer nor one drink makes you an alcoholic) the more you dabble with the dark arts the more likely you are to become evil.

So you can say the ends justify the means... but if they justify them too often you may find yourself to be evil without ever meaning to.

Its even true in this world! I know because I was a financial advisor and too much more of that would have twisted me into an evil monster. Now I'm in law school so I ... oh no.

An individual act of evil doesn't make one evil, regardless of whether it's casting a spell, using a magic item or just committing a blatant act like stealing or cheating.

But the concept is that they add up. Using an evil spell regularly is not something that would make sense to me for a "good" character.

I concur with your agreement.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

What appears to be the difference in how people interpret casting evil spells and using evil items is in how they understand alignment to behave in the Pathfinder game world.

I see constant arguments about "well if you use evil things for good, then it's not really evil" which even in this world is a sort of "ends justifies the means" argument which most ethicists would argue is a very tenuous argument to make.

But many of us interpret the game world to be one where alignment issues like good, evil, law and chaos are more fundamental aspects of the game world itself. In our estimation, according to how we understand the rules of the game, evil is an attribute of spells or items which are designated as evil. That means to use them means to literally take evil into your own hands and accept its power.

In that interpretation there is no "ends justifies the means" possible. To use an evil spell is by definition an evil act, no matter what the outcome.

To many people this just doesn't make sense because tools and items in the real world are just tools and items. A hammer isn't evil, no matter what you do with it.

But in Pathfinder an evil spell is evil. It is based on and draws its powers from evil. To use it is to exploit evil, which is in itself an acceptance and use of evil. Therefore it is an evil act.

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?


Ubercroz wrote:


I concur with your agreement.

Heh, the slight clarification that I was adding to your comment Ubercroz was to address the idea that a good character can routinely accept into his repertoire of daily spells an evil spell and use it with impunity. I was directly addressing that idea.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Ubercroz wrote:


I concur with your agreement.
Heh, the slight clarification that I was adding to your comment Ubercroz was to address the idea that a good character can routinely accept into his repertoire of daily spells an evil spell and use it with impunity. I was directly addressing that idea.

Fair enough :D


littlehewy wrote:

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

As I said, many people find this concept hard to accept because they tend to view evil and good according to our real world concepts.

What I am saying hewy is that according to the description of how evil spells work, it is explicitly stated that they draw their power from evil, and that means to use them you have to accept evil power as the driving force behind them, which in the PATHFINDER universe seems, to me, by RAW, to be an evil act.

Doing so on a few occasions for a greater good is not going to make a character evil. But routinely doing so means the routine acceptance of evil as a source of the character's power. By definition.

Again, as I said, there is disagreement on this. I am just describing how I interpret the rules.

Silver Crusade

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I once played a Lawful Evil fighter, who could never understand why he'd been rejected from Paladin training. He followed all of the rules, and even 'enforced' them when he saw others slacking. He was always top of his class, and he made sure everyone knew it, even if they could never see the true intent of the rules as he did.

Travelled as a very honorable mercanary, but never break a contract with him, cause then you had no rules to hide behind when he unleashed 'righteous vengance upon thee'.

And please, lets not derail this thread with alignment debates, the OP has requested shared ideas, not asked for a morals vs ethics debate =D


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
littlehewy wrote:

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

As I said, many people find this concept hard to accept because they tend to view evil and good according to our real world concepts.

What I am saying hewy is that according to the description of how evil spells work, it is explicitly stated that they draw their power from evil, and that means to use them you have to accept evil power as the driving force behind them, which in the PATHFINDER universe seems, to me, by RAW, to be an evil act.

Doing so on a few occasions for a greater good is not going to make a character evil. But routinely doing so means the routine acceptance of evil as a source of the character's power. By definition.

Again, as I said, there is disagreement on this. I am just describing how I interpret the rules.

That didn't quite answer my question :) a yes or no would, though.

Edit: also, would it be easier to answer if the question read "...evil because he often uses spells with the evil descriptor?"


Booksy wrote:


And please, lets not derail this thread with alignment debates, the OP has requested shared ideas, not asked for a morals vs ethics debate =D

Requesting your messageboard police badge and precinct number so I can note it for future reference Booksy.


littlehewy wrote:

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

I would say he is evil because he is C/E, and the guy who is roleplaying him is a little confused.

Like saying the hardcore assassin that has murdered countless people really has a sweet disposition under after all those killings.

Maybe it worked in "The Whole 9 Yards", but Pathfinder isn't a Mathew Perry movie, and this Necromancer is no Bruce Willis.

I think it would be fine to play that character in a comical setting. But in a more serious setting it would not make sense for the evil spell casting, dead raising ,death dealing necromancer to be a super sweet dude who hands out candy to orphans on a regular basis.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.

Pretty sure some Paizo employees disagree with each other on a pretty regular basis Rynjin.

Here is what the RAW says for evil spells:

evil wrote:
Evil: Spells that draw upon evil powers or conjure creatures from evil-aligned planes or with the evil subtype should have the evil descriptor.

Yep, yep, they draw power from evil-aligned planes.

Now tell me where it says using one is an evil act.

Same as a neutral Cleric can worship an evil god and still be neutral, evil spells do not turn one evil just like good spells don't turn one good.


littlehewy wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
littlehewy wrote:

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

As I said, many people find this concept hard to accept because they tend to view evil and good according to our real world concepts.

What I am saying hewy is that according to the description of how evil spells work, it is explicitly stated that they draw their power from evil, and that means to use them you have to accept evil power as the driving force behind them, which in the PATHFINDER universe seems, to me, by RAW, to be an evil act.

Doing so on a few occasions for a greater good is not going to make a character evil. But routinely doing so means the routine acceptance of evil as a source of the character's power. By definition.

Again, as I said, there is disagreement on this. I am just describing how I interpret the rules.

That didn't quite answer my question :) a yes or no would, though.

I directly and carefully answered your question hewy. I can only speak for myself and my own interpretation while citing source material, which I did. I also noted that other people don't interpret it the same way.

Make up your own mind. The material has been presented.


Rynjin wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.

Pretty sure some Paizo employees disagree with each other on a pretty regular basis Rynjin.

Here is what the RAW says for evil spells:

evil wrote:
Evil: Spells that draw upon evil powers or conjure creatures from evil-aligned planes or with the evil subtype should have the evil descriptor.

Yep, yep, they draw power from evil-aligned planes.

Now tell me where it says using one is an evil act.

Same as a neutral Cleric can worship an evil god and still be neutral, evil spells do not turn one evil just like good spells don't turn one good.

Rynjin. It says "spells that draw upon evil powers". Not "spells that draw power from evil-aligned planes."


Adamantine Dragon wrote:
littlehewy wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
littlehewy wrote:

So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

As I said, many people find this concept hard to accept because they tend to view evil and good according to our real world concepts.

What I am saying hewy is that according to the description of how evil spells work, it is explicitly stated that they draw their power from evil, and that means to use them you have to accept evil power as the driving force behind them, which in the PATHFINDER universe seems, to me, by RAW, to be an evil act.

Doing so on a few occasions for a greater good is not going to make a character evil. But routinely doing so means the routine acceptance of evil as a source of the character's power. By definition.

Again, as I said, there is disagreement on this. I am just describing how I interpret the rules.

That didn't quite answer my question :) a yes or no would, though.

I directly and carefully answered your question hewy. I can only speak for myself and my own interpretation while citing source material, which I did. I also noted that other people don't interpret it the same way.

Make up your own mind. The material has been presented.

Lol you certainly answered carefully, but not directly. I asked if that character is evil because of the spells he casts, in spite of his good disposition and intentions. You talked about the issues surrounding the question without telling me whether or not you think that character is evil or not.

Not trying to be annoying, I'd just like a clear answer. I'm genuinely interested in your POV.

Simply, do you think a character is automatically evil because they routinely use spells with the evil descriptor?


Same difference.

Nowhere in there does it say that using evil powers is an evil, alignment shifting act. It makes no logical sense either by in-universe rules or by why they would put it in the rulebook.

In-universe it doesn't make sense because casting some very ambiguous spells constantly would make a guy good for whatever reason. For example, the Inquisitor spell "Follow Aura" gains the good descriptor when used to track evil. So are you saying the evil-aligned Inquisitor is somehow going to *POOF* turn into a good guy if he uses it to track down other evil-aligned individuals for his church? Conversely, is a good-aligned Inquisitor going to turn evil for tracking down his allies when he gets separated by using Follow Aura on his other good-aligned comrades? It makes no sense at all.

By rules it doesn't make sense because there's no reason to put that in there, and it shows by the fact that IT'S NO IN THERE as far as I can tell. Nowhere in the rulebook does it say "using a spell with the evil descriptor is an evil act". What it DOES do is point out that certain specific spells/abilities ARE evil acts, which gives credence to this theory. For example, using Cook People is specifically called out as an evil act, as is knowingly eating food from the ability. A spell like Magic Circle Against Good o the other hand, is not specified as such.


Something I've always tried to keep in my head is that alignment is all about intentions. A "good" aligned character is actively trying to help others, while an evil character is trying to help him or herself.

That doesn't mean that they actually are helping, though. A radical priest with an extremely conservative view of his religion's principles could be good-aligned, while his actions may in actuality be doing harm. He could even be killing innocents in order to "purify" their bodies of sin.

An evil character also need not necessarily be actively attempting to harm innocents either, she is just more concerned with herself than others. A noble could be famous for her acts of philanthropy, but so long as she is concerned only with pursuit of personal wealth and power and is willing to sacrifice her philanthropic missions as soon as they no longer suit his interests, she would be evil aligned.

A character that is concerned mostly with his own interests, but will help the poor when it's convenient or pressing to do so, would be considered neutral in my books (which, to me, is most adventuring characters...and real people for that matter).

Chaotic vs Lawful is more objective, in my mind, but still largely relative. A lawful character adheres rigidly to a code and respects authority, while a chaotic character almost compulsively rebels against it. A character that only respects authority when it is easy, convenient, or suits their interests is again neutral.

So that means you can play a violent sociopath who is lawful good, and a benevolent philanthropist who is neutral evil. There would be a great number of lawful evil priests in good-aligned churches, and a number of chaotic-good wizards dabbling in the dark arts to use their secrets for good. So long as your view of alignments is somewhat flexible, there's really a lot you can do with them that is narratively interesting.


First off, I like Wind Chime's character concept. A guy that does everything in his power to do good, but with evil powers is pretty awesome. For that kind of character to work in Pathfinder, he would need to have an evil alignment for the purpose of game mechanics. A guy using only evil spells should exude an evil aura of some type. A paladin uses detect evil would zero in this guy and there's a lot of role playing potential there. Diplomacy vs Sense Motive. Will the paladin except the character's excuses for using evil? Would the paladin except his help? Would any decent person except his help?

Secondly, Ubercroz pretty much nailed it on the head about how I generally use alignment. Wind Chime's character just has a special circumstance.


Rynjin wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Aratrok wrote:
Why would the necromancer you described be CE? Using "evil" magic isn't an evil act in and of itself, especially if you use it for benevolent purposes.
Yes it is. That's why it has the [Evil] descriptor.

Which is why the the guy killing neutral bystanders with Spear of Purity and then laughing at their misfortune is a saint, right?

Right?

This ^^

Grand Lodge

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I always play my C/E and N/E characters as unflinchingly polite and supremely likable.

If you're going to be doing some horrible things, it helps a lot if you're able to make people like you so they will have a hard time squaring the circle of this nice guy being an utter sociopath.

One of my favorite story hooks are the unpopular heroes trying to defeat a beloved villain. It prevents the typical, "Kill, loot, rinse, repeat" mentality of so many campaigns by requiring the players to first reveal the true nature of the big bad.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

What appears to be the difference in how people interpret casting evil spells and using evil items is in how they understand alignment to behave in the Pathfinder game world.

I see constant arguments about "well if you use evil things for good, then it's not really evil" which even in this world is a sort of "ends justifies the means" argument which most ethicists would argue is a very tenuous argument to make.

But many of us interpret the game world to be one where alignment issues like good, evil, law and chaos are more fundamental aspects of the game world itself. In our estimation, according to how we understand the rules of the game, evil is an attribute of spells or items which are designated as evil. That means to use them means to literally take evil into your own hands and accept its power.

In that interpretation there is no "ends justifies the means" possible. To use an evil spell is by definition an evil act, no matter what the outcome.

To many people this just doesn't make sense because tools and items in the real world are just tools and items. A hammer isn't evil, no matter what you do with it.

But in Pathfinder an evil spell is evil. It is based on and draws its powers from evil. To use it is to exploit evil, which is in itself an acceptance and use of evil. Therefore it is an evil act.

So, theoretically you could have an evil character who is incredibly altruistic and works primarily for the good of others?


Dot.


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The way I see it, the main difference between the alignments will pretty much always be what means they'll use to reach there goals. Those goals might also be unpleasant, but certainly don't have to be.

Character 1 - Zhen, Neutral Good Fighter. He's my character in the Carrion Crown campiagn. His main goal in life is keeping his Chaotic Neutral partner from flying into a berserk rage and depopulating a town, but he's also out to stop the Whispering Way. He even, grudgingly, worked with some undead to get the information he needed...and then sent a letter to the nearest temple of Pharasma and Sarenrae to see them cleansed.

Character 2 - Kuro, Neutral Evil Magister (a Super Genius Games class). He'll be my character in the upcoming Way of the Wicked campaign. His goal, unlike Zhen, is to not die. He's terrified of dying since he was a child, as everyone told him all the horrible things that happened were his fault, and he'd go to Hell when he died, so now he's working for Asmodaeous to gain the resources he needs to avoid death (which involves lichdom, an eidolon bodyguard and his own demiplane) and he's willing to do pretty much anything he needs to in order to get there.

That's the big difference between the two. Zhen wouldn't nuke an orphanage. Kuro would. Both will work with and for things they don't especially like (Kuro is outright terrified of Asmodaeous) to achieve there goals. Neither will actively go out of there way to make people suffer.

Even Chaos McPuppyKicker, Antipaladin of Rovagug, works for this. Although in his case the evil act of kicking puppies and selling children to Goblins is the goal. On the other hand, he probably wouldn't be willing to protect a maternity hospital so he can steal the children later.

Same goes for Law and Chaos - Lawful character should think primarily about social rules (rather than legal rules - Paladin's don't smite for late tax returns, for example) while chaotic ones should be thinking about personal codes. That certainly doesn't mean on many occasions the two won't meet. 'Don't eat this giraffe', for example, is both a personal code and social rule that almost everyone will obey. Except Chaos McPuppyKicker, but that guy's an ass.

Since, in real life, people will do evil things for what they think are good reasons, that's how I tend to treat things - evil is how far you're willing to go to achieve your goal, whatever that might be, and chaos is more your personal code of conduct matters to you over societies general rules.

So the Necromancer mentioned earlier would be Evil (defiling the dead can't usually be considered a good act. especially if there are any Pharasman's nearby) even though his goals are good.


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I think alignment spell descriptors exist solely to restrict what clerics can cast. Otherwise summoning angels to burn down an orphanage is less evil than burning it down yourself. If evil magic is corrupting to a greater degree than good magic is sanctifying then either evil exhibits the virtue of forgiveness better than good or evil is the natural state of all PC races including half celestials.

I'd therefore have to call the benevolent necromancer some variety of good.


Wind Chime wrote:
Pathfinder has a variety of alignments some more restrictive than others, I was wondering how many ways have people come up of playing alignments differently from the norm.

Alignment causes more masturbatory arguments than nearly anything else in my experience and the whole thing should be abolished.

Not sure how many of us have had to suffer a preachy, over the top, colon holster for a stick paladin that can only be played one way because lawful good and some code requires it.

Abolish alignments.

Perhaps you've been in this situation where you verbalize a warped solution to your current situation (using badgers as nunchaku?) and the player to your left, that always seems to eat more of the chips than is acceptable, avows that as being a breach of protocol since you are <insert alignment here>.

Your character will do good things, bad things and other things in middle depending on the perspective of the person observing your act. Life is good as long as you remain consistent with your own picture of your character's core beliefs.


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johnlocke90 wrote:

So, theoretically you could have an evil character who is incredibly altruistic and works primarily for the good of others?

Sigh, no matter how carefully I try to say "The Pathfinder universe is not the same as our universe" people insist on trying to use our world's concepts of good and evil to address this.

Think of it like this. An evil spell is powered from an evil source. That's what the RAW says. People like Rynjin can try to creatively parse the rules to avoid this however they like, the rule is clear. Evil spells work because they "draw upon evil powers." That means the spell itself is powered by evil.

Evil in Pathfinder is an attribute. It's real. It's not some arguable amorphous nebulous concept that looks evil from one direction but can look good from another.

Evil EXISTS in Pathfinder. And evil spells draw upon evil powers. So if you use an evil spell, you are drawing on evil powers. That means you are committing an evil act.

Sure, you can choose to interpret the rules creatively so you can argue that using evil spells or items is meaningless. But that makes evil itself meaningless.

If you want to play it that way, fine. I do my best to interpret the RAW as directly as I can. And my interpretation is that if you are using an evil spell, you are channeling evil powers and that is an evil act.

Just. My. Opinion.

Grand Lodge

In PFS, I play a LN Cavalier with Abadar as his deity. We were in a port, and my partner (a NG fighter) had to pass up 500gp in bribes. Now, admittedly my character is loyal to the Society above all, but I cut down a guard with a battleaxe and dumped his bdoy in the harbor. Considering my character's personality, he'd be a little uncomfortable with it, but his loyalty would keep him steady. As long as he didn't do that on a consistent basis, he would be okay.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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I think something people forget is that characters are more affected by the good or evil of their actions than their players are.

For a player, the Evil descriptor on a spell is just a label. As long as what I do with it is good, who cares? The millionth time you cast it is mechanically identical to the first time you cast it. Nothing changes.

But for the character, evil is a natural force of the world. Using evil magic will affect you. It will change who you are, and what you value. You may have started out by intending to use evil spells to accomplish good, but eventually, good would become less and less important to you and it would become easier and easier to choose to perform evil actions.

They might start as "good guy who uses evil to accomplish good", but they would never stay that way. They would start slipping to "okay guy who uses evil to accomplish whatever" and eventually to "delusional guy who uses evil to accomplish his own ends that he thinks are for the greater good".

When a PC who has been casting evil spells for a while encounters a puppy and has to decide whether to save it or stab it, the player is just thinking "save the puppy". But the character wouldn't feel so casually sure - he'd be corrupted, his judgment would be off, he'd be thinking the puppy's stupid tongue lolling out was offensive and mocking and how dare he act so smug and I think it needs to be taught a lesson...

But the player feels none of that, and too easily roleplays as if that corruption wasn't happening.

So when someone says "He uses evil spells to do good and is generally a good guy - is he still evil?", the answer is neither "yes" nor "no" - the answer is "that character wouldn't exist in the game world".


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Xenh wrote:


Alignment causes more masturbatory arguments than nearly anything else in my experience and the whole thing should be abolished.

Not sure how many of us have had to suffer a preachy, over the top, colon holster for a stick paladin that can only be played one way because lawful good and some code requires it.

Abolish alignments.

Perhaps you've been in this situation where you verbalize a warped solution to your current situation (using badgers as nunchaku?) and the player to your left, that always seems to eat more of the chips than is acceptable, avows that as being a breach of protocol since you are <insert alignment here>.

Your character will do good things, bad things and other things in middle depending on the perspective of the person observing your act. Life is good as long as you remain consistent with your own picture of your character's core beliefs.

I really like the alignment system actually. I think it offers an interesting way to roleplay a character, if the character sticks to it.

Additionally, if you have a hot headed, chip-eating cohort at the table who is chastising you for alignment choices fret not! Only you and the GM have to worry about that.

As a GM I have never prevented someone for doing something that I thought was against alignment. I made sure they understood my thoughts on their actions, we discussed it later, and I made sure that there were consequences for their actions. (Turns out dwarven cities frown on their guards getting killed and the party had to sneak out of that place and NOT go back there, ever)

Alignment should just be used as a tool to help you describe your character and the way they think about the world. If you have a clear picture of your characters personality in your head alignment should never be a problem. I think people tend to get upset when they just view their character as an amorphous thing that does stuff they want, but don't roleplay them consistently.

And even if you have a solid image of your character sometimes a character will act outside of their alignment the way normal people do. It happens regularly that kind people murder someone in a fit of rage, that kind of stuff happens to characters as well (not just barbarians!).

Like with most things in life there is this nice sweet spot in the middle of the alignment argument- meaning alignment has value, and there is more than 1 way to play an alignment. But that does not mean that you can play an alignment anyway you want to.

Shadow Lodge

To me, good and evil are less interesting than law and chaos. A good character could use an evil spell for good ends, but by definition of being "good" wouldn't want to (though the player playing her might). To combine Jiggy's theory with the OP's example: technically, a good necromancer could raise an army of zombie defenders of righteousness, but the act of doing so would corrupt him so fully that he wouldn't be good at the end of it, because genuinely good people don't create meat-puppets. He might be neutral, but his essential attitude towards the sanctity of life has been compromised.

Now, law vs. chaos, that's interesting. If a carriage has stopped and the driver is on break, a lawful character will wait until the driver gets on and pay her fare, even if no one else is (even a lawful evil character). A lawful character will never cut in line in a cafeteria. A lawful good character will let other people cut, if they have a pressing need (an appointment, hypoglycemia, a crying baby, etc.). A lawful neutral character will not, ever, let someone else cut, no matter how pressing their need (the rules must be maintained, or else society will descend into chaos). A lawful evil character will find some way (within existing laws) to exact revenge on someone who cuts (say, by flipping their tray when they've ordered their food).

A serial killer, by definition, has to be chaotic evil, right? He's flouting the norms of society and does not respect the sanctity of life. However, a chaotic evil serial killer who directs his attentions towards goblins, orcs and bugbears? We call him an adventurer. Likewise, a lawful good person who does not take life, any life, and does not wear a weapon in public is likely to be an unsuccessful adventurer. A lawful neutral rogue would never steal anything, unless she worked for the government and was legally granted the right to do so.

A chaotic good rogue would make an excellent firefighter: he would get to help people and do good in the world, and when the fire was out he could help himself to a few household objects. A lawful druid might work for a logging company, as long as they agreed to replace what they cut down. A chaotic evil druid might kill loggers. A chaotic good druid might work in the Greenpeace recruiting department.

What would a good gunslinger or ninja look like? They are classes that are built, more than any other, to kill. Guns don't do non-lethal damage, and ninjas poison. Could a good ninja work as a pharmacist? Would a good gunslinger look like Roy Rogers, only ever shooting to disarm?


Doram ob'Han wrote:
To me, good and evil are less interesting than law and chaos. A good character could use an evil spell for good ends, but by definition of being "good" wouldn't want to (though the player playing her might). To combine Jiggy's theory with the OP's example: technically, a good necromancer could raise an army of zombie defenders of righteousness, but the act of doing so would corrupt him so fully that he wouldn't be good at the end of it, because genuinely good people don't create meat-puppets. He might be neutral, but his essential attitude towards the sanctity of life has been compromised.

Really though it is very easy for a character to believe that animating a corpse is a neutral actions it just needs the assumption that corpses are empty and that the true living part of the person leaves upon death. Which means that all necromancy does is puppet lifeless tissue grisly but no worse than someone animating a golum out of lifeless metal. The D&D alignment system judges you by your actions not your intentions so I don't see any reason you can't play a chaotic evil character who does good and bad things for good intentions.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
littlehewy wrote:


So are you saying the character in the OP that is benevolent, kind, and likes children and other people and wants to help them and do good stuff is evil because he uses spells with the evil descriptor?

If this was a character in a well written story, I would see this as a character heading down the slippery slope and would not be surprised to see him killing those same children and animating them as zombies and ghouls to make his "perfect family". That's chaotic evil a profile of serial killers who kidnap people to force them into a role and inevitably kill them in horrific ways when it inevitably fails. "Little Bobby has been bad and must be punished!"

Otherwise it's just a badly written character put together for a wargame that people frequently mistake for great literature.

I'm a firm believer that if you blithely play with evil magic, you WILL tarnish your soul whether you're aware of it or not. And eventually you will become the monster that a Chaotic Evil should be.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rynjin wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Pretty sure some Paizo employees have gone on record disagreeing with you Adamantine.

Pretty sure some Paizo employees disagree with each other on a pretty regular basis Rynjin.

Here is what the RAW says for evil spells:

evil wrote:
Evil: Spells that draw upon evil powers or conjure creatures from evil-aligned planes or with the evil subtype should have the evil descriptor.

Yep, yep, they draw power from evil-aligned planes.

Now tell me where it says using one is an evil act.

Same as a neutral Cleric can worship an evil god and still be neutral, evil spells do not turn one evil just like good spells don't turn one good.

I reject the symmetry argument. Because it does not work that way. Evil can be achieved by inaction as well as action, but Good requires deliberate, and determined persistence.


Typical alignment thread. Tons of straw men.

Alignment is the single worst aspect of the d20 system. It is the heart of so many needless arguments. If you're lucky, you'll both walk away with an "agree to disagree" attitude. If you're not, you'll run out of breath from screaming at one another.

Really, the only characters I feel ought to have codified alignments are those that are tied to an aligned-plane (such as outsiders), or those who draw their power from a divine concept of good or evil (such as clerics and paladins). Everyone else = no alignment. Period.

/Sadface.


One of the BBEGs in the campaign I just ran was a LE cleric of the god of death.

He was trying to save the world. He found out that there were demons that would be entering the world and that they would destroy everything in their path if they made it in.

So he found out a way that could stop this horde of demons, with the small sacrifice of a few hundred thousand lives.

From his perspective that was the only way of stopping the greater evil, but he had to become evil to do it.

Before the campaign and before he made that decision he was a LN person, but all the evil acts he did: the sacrifices, the raising of the dead, kidnapping people to rob them of their souls, etc. All of that added up and he became truly evil.

When the party finally confronted him they offered to let him help them find another way. But he was so focused on his belief that his was the ONLY way that he told them "If you do not kill me, I will complete my mission".


I have to admit i'm intrigued by the idea of a bad guy being benevolent. If your results as interpreted by detect alignment dont match your actions and the public perception of your actions...

The first variant being someone who was truly evil doing nice things for people (a true devil's evil) to make them think he's a good guy when really he's doing something horrible behind the scenes... (this type of evil should actually be the rule, not the exception, in my mind...)

The second variant would be someone who was truly a good person but had a curse cast upon him that made is alignment read differently to keep people who can see such things from trusting him... Party wastes a lot of time trying to 'catch him with his pants down' doing something evil that matches the read...

The third variant being a combination of the two. an evil person doing nice things who's been 'cursed' to appear as the wrong alignment, so he does nice things for people and scans as a nice person too... but he's doing bad things behind the scenes... Fun!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Detect Magic wrote:

Typical alignment thread. Tons of straw men.

Alignment is the single worst aspect of the d20 system. It is the heart of so many needless arguments. If you're lucky, you'll both walk away with an "agree to disagree" attitude. If you're not, you'll run out of breath from screaming at one another.

Really, the only characters I feel ought to have codified alignments are those that are tied to an aligned-plane (such as outsiders), or those who draw their power from a divine concept of good or evil (such as clerics and paladins). Everyone else = no alignment. Period.

/Sadface.

I totally agree with this. Alignment was kept as part of the 3.5 compatibility marketing scheme and it will stay because of all the major changes that would have to be done with the game if it were removed. But for my house play, I'm looking to go with the Monte Cook route.

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