Is murder always evil?


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Liberty's Edge

I'm wondering how killing of sentient life, "in the name of good" is regarded in traditional SRD alignment. Let's say a CG Inquisitor of Desna is killing a LE Duke or guards that are secretly worshiping devils. So overwhelmed by the depravity of the Chelish nobility, the Inquisitor slaughters every single devil-worshiping noble at a banquet and then cuts the Duke's head off as he begs for mercy. Well beyond any moral restraints of his religion and not beholden to any Paladin code, it would seem to me this is a legitimate action.

In one module, it's mentioned Sarenrae sends hundreds of dervishes into the desert and slaughter every single member of a temple that was devoted to worship of Rovagug. Given no chance for redemption, these lost souls are written off to what seems to amount to wholesale slaughter.

Given this, I have to dispute what I've read in a lot of threads here. Alignment seems to be less about actions and results, and more about motivations. Evil then isn't an action, but a mindset.


willhob wrote:

I'm wondering how killing of sentient life, "in the name of good" is regarded in traditional SRD alignment. Let's say a CG Inquisitor of Desna is killing a LE Duke or guards that are secretly worshiping devils. So overwhelmed by the depravity of the Chelish nobility, the Inquisitor slaughters every single devil-worshiping noble at a banquet and then cuts the Duke's head off as he begs for mercy. Well beyond any moral restraints of his religion and not beholden to any Paladin code, it would seem to me this is a legitimate action.

In one module, it's mentioned Sarenrae sends hundreds of dervishes into the desert and slaughter every single member of a temple that was devoted to worship of Rovagug. Given no chance for redemption, these lost souls are written off to what seems to amount to wholesale slaughter.

Given this, I have to dispute what I've read in a lot of threads here. Alignment seems to be less about actions and results, and more about motivations. Evil then isn't an action, but a mindset.

Depends on how you are defining murder.

Killing is neutral: it can be good or evil depending on a number of factors like authority, intent, etc.

This is why the Government is not itself tried for murder when it executes someone: they have authority.
Killing evil according to Sarenrae is not murder even without offering redemption.


Yes.


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Most of us just call it adventuring.


If killing weren't automatically evil then it would be slightly harder for us to come up with excuses to make paladins fall, and that's unacceptable.


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I murdered a bottle of whisky this weekend.

I would say it was evil...


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Murder is always evil. Killing is not. Killing in self defense, defense of others, during a just war, when there's no way to effectively imprison/prevent someone from committing more acts of evil, etc.

It is still about the action and not the motivation. It's just that killing is not a single action and there are mitigating factors and context.


Everyone know's paladin's don't murder people they only self-defense them to death. Its a tenuous line but generally as long as you don't strike first your ok. Oh and avoid coup de gras its perfectly fine to self-defense your enemies to death in combat but not when they are helpless.


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Wind Chime wrote:
Everyone know's paladin's don't murder people they only self-defense them to death. Its a tenuous line but generally as long as you don't strike first your ok.

Wait, I can make a paladin fall for winning initiative and charging? That's even better than I thought! Thanks, I'm going to go have some fun with my current paladin player.

Lantern Lodge

It is a pretty grey area, which is why in all my house games I allow the assassin class to all evil or neutral characters.

Personally, I believe good characters should use killing as a last resort. That doesn't mean talking to every monster, most are believed inherently evil, but if someone offers to surrender you would accept their surrender. In the OP's case, this is exactly how a good inquisitor might react. They are the extreme arm of the church.


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The title of the thread and the OP's post cover two different issues. So to answer in the order presented.

Is murder evil? Yes, always.

But, is killing of sentient life, in the name of good, bla-bla-bla... No, not necessarily, it can be evil, but not always. Killing and murder are two different things.

I think your thread title will definitely cause problems in this discussion since, it's not regarding the same subject as the OP.

The sixth commandment of the Bible is different based on which version you're reading. In the King James version it's thou shalt not kill. However in the original Greek version (the first written version) it's thou shalt not do murder.

If you can't use the proper definition of the word of concern or even the right word, you can never get a clear answer.


Really depends on how you define "murder". If you're just talking about unlawful homicide... well, it's right there in the name. If you're talking about wrongful homicide... well, that's right there in the name, too.


I think killing someone who's begging for their life is a bit rough--especially where you clearly have a chance to apprehend someone in that circumstance rather than administering judgement on the spot.

That said my good/evil axis in D&D is this: a good person sacrifices what he wants for others, an evil person sacrifices others for what he wants. Pretty clear cut.


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Once again, we have a problem with the definition of words, which can only serve to confuse the issue.

Not all killing = murder. Murder is a very specific, and yes, evil act.


What gamer-printer said.

+1


OP.
The Inquisitor in your scenario gets away with the act even if it is evil because the inquisitor rides the line of what his deity considers to be good and evil acts and gets away with it, thats kinda what they do. However, a paladin just slaughtering all of those people especially one begging for mercy would surely fall.

When pondering these questions think more of what are the consequences of the act rather than the alignment of the act itself.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Murder is unlawful killing with malice aforethought. Otherwise it's manslaughter (unlawful killing).

Evil in pathfinder is largely how GMs define it, but the Game MasterGuide mentions alignment as how a character trends. Evil people can do good acts just as good people can do evil acts. If murder is evil, are all murderers evil?

As far as your specifics on killing sentient life in the name of good, we have soldiers in Afghanistan(and many other wars) that do it all day long. It's not murder in that case. Nor do we consider soldiers (on either side) evil because of the killing. You could easily make a case that your inquisitor (soldier) has been given that sanction (treaty/law/Geneva Convention) by his church (government).

Then there's the Crusades ...

Liberty's Edge

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gamer-printer wrote:

The title of the thread and the OP's post cover two different issues. So to answer in the order presented.

Is murder evil? Yes, always.

But, is killing of sentient life, in the name of good, bla-bla-bla... No, not necessarily, it can be evil, but not always. Killing and murder are two different things.

I think your thread title will definitely cause problems in this discussion since, it's not regarding the same subject as the OP.

The sixth commandment of the Bible is different based on which version you're reading. In the King James version it's thou shalt not kill. However in the original Greek version (the first written version) it's thou shalt not do murder.

If you can't use the proper definition of the word of concern or even the right word, you can never get a clear answer.

While your argument is good, you do have a fundamental error. The Torah was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek. (The Greeks translated the Torah and other Jewish writings, but not always accurately.) Thus the commandment that is often mistranslated as "You shall not kill" actually uses the Hebrew word retzach, perhaps best translated into English as murder. The word retzach is not used for war.

I would argue that a paladin charging a foe, such as a priest of Rovagug, is not retzach, but rather someone acting in a war. There is a great difference, in Jewish theology, in murder and in fighting a war where self defense and attacking a foe are considered legitimate. There is a difference between the murder of an innocent person and fighting a legitimate foe.

Liberty's Edge

I would also argue that in a game like Pathfinder, one also has to consider the teaching of the deity that a character follows. A worshipper of Torag is less likely to be merciful than a follower of Sarenrae, but I would suspect both would accept the surrender of a person who could be turned over to legitimate authorities for judgment. In the case of some fights, the characters may be the only ones who can deliver any form of justice.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yes, murder is always evil. Killing is not.


death is an unfortunate result of conflict.

Anakin went to the mustafar system with the goal of killing all the separatist leaders, his intent was to murder them all, not just conflict with them, but duely end their lives with no other forseeable outcome. He was far more powerful than they, and they stood no chance, even as a collective. He did not take nor accept surrenders or pleas for mercy. That's murder.

HOWEVER.

Technically speaking, LORD VADER was the second highest ranking individual in the government at the time, with the appointment of his superior to go there and end the war once and for all. "Do what you must" were his orders. Vader translated that into kill them all. And Maybe killing them all COULD have been a lawful and righteous outcome depending on the reactions of those he attempted to conflict with.

So, in that case, Vader had the ability ( a legion of stormtroopers at his command and a galactic government of assets) to imprison them, and try them for war crimes.

BUT, what if your Paladin were in that position, and did not have soldiers to manage prisoners, or a place to hold them? Paladins have the moral right to 'mete out justice', similar to what roaming marshall's did in the wild west. Cut them down, in the name of justice.

It really depends how it plays out, If Nute Gunray was pleading for mercy? a Paladin would HAVE to honor that, with the exception that this particular villain had already used that as a ploy, or the paladin had reason to believe or possibly, the villain was too dangerous to be left alive (ancient red dragon anyone?)


I honestly think alignments are silly when there are deities that could have defined feelings and commandments and practices instead.


sacred cow


I see what you did there.


Murder is evil. So far I haven't found much redemable about the Inquisitor Class. Very hard to justify many of them as of good alignment.


Murder is always Unlawful. Religion and law don't always match.


William Ronald wrote:
While your argument is good, you do have a fundamental error. The Torah was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek. (The Greeks translated the Torah and other Jewish writings, but not always accurately.) Thus the commandment that is often mistranslated as "You shall not kill" actually uses the Hebrew word retzach, perhaps best translated into English as murder. The word retzach is not used for war.

The point is basing an argument on a definition when the source of the definition is based on translations and mistranslations can never lead to a conclusion that anyone can agree with. When using an argument based on defined terms, what is the source of those terms and is that the same source that others involved in the argument using - probably not, so you cannot draw an effective conclusion at all.


Murder may be evil to some beliefs, but to others it may be saving lives. It just depends on the situation, and the motive of the killer's mindset to start making judgements. To some it is forbidden, and a sin to do but like I say it just depends on the person, their beliefs, or the situation.


well "murder" is specifically unsanctioned killing, not war, crusade, or other forms of conflict where life is lost.

So "murder" can never save lives.


Personally, I don't think being good or lawful requires you to always accept someones surrender.

As for murder always being evil, that one's a bit tricky, as others have brought up. In general, I don't all killing outside of the law are evil.


Pendagast wrote:

well "murder" is specifically unsanctioned killing, not war, crusade, or other forms of conflict where life is lost.

So "murder" can never save lives.

If you murder the person who is plotting to kill 30 people then it will save their lives.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, Batman never murdered anyone, and since (as we all know and accept that as a fact so please don't give me any opinions here) he is Neutral Evil, therefore murder =/= Evil. It's those Chaotic Good people (such as Joker) who commit murder, so we can argue it's a Good act and go on from here.

;-)


Gorbacz wrote:

Well, Batman never murdered anyone, and since (as we all know and accept that as a fact so please don't give me any opinions here) he is Neutral Evil, therefore murder =/= Evil. It's those Chaotic Good people (such as Joker) who commit murder, so we can argue it's a Good act and go on from here.

;-)

Yes he did watch Batman Returns.


SuperSlayer wrote:
Pendagast wrote:

well "murder" is specifically unsanctioned killing, not war, crusade, or other forms of conflict where life is lost.

So "murder" can never save lives.

If you murder the person who is plotting to kill 30 people then it will save their lives.

Indeed, murder is often entirely justified.

Regicide is nearly never sanctioned but kings frequently deserve death and even need to die.

Vader tossing Palpatine down a shaft? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act.

Julius Caesar? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act.

Every attempt to kill Hitler that wasn't undertaken by allied intelligence? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act. Also failure, but competence isn't an alignment axis.

Sanction has nothing to do with good or evil and only so much to do with law and chaos. Julius Caesar, for instance, was killed by the legitimate senate of the Roman Republic to preserve the state and the rule of law, but the Senate had no authority to execute a Consul without deliberation. An act taken in extremis to preserve the law by the legitimate sovereign body must be lawful, even though technically illegal.


Murder is still wrong. Capturing someone trying to kill 30 people is the thing to do, not murder them. Sometimes options aren't there to successfully capture a dangerous person, that still doesn't justify murder, ever. If an attempt to capture this dangerous person fails and leads to greater danger, the captors may be forced to kill - then it becomes a self defense killing, not murder.

Although next to impossible, wouldn't it be better to have captured Hitler, hold a trial, condemn him to death, than hang him verses any assassination attempt ever?

I cannot see murdering a probable evil person as being a good act. Neutral perhaps, but not good. You're trying to say the end justifies the means - I don't think that's ever a 'good' thing.


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SuperSlayer wrote:
Pendagast wrote:

well "murder" is specifically unsanctioned killing, not war, crusade, or other forms of conflict where life is lost.

So "murder" can never save lives.

If you murder the person who is plotting to kill 30 people then it will save their lives.

then it's not "murder", It's the defense of others.

As an army sniper, I have shot sappers (on more than one occasion) that never even knew I was there (a sapper is a term for a military bomb expert), the death of the sapper meant many people did not get blown up. Did I "murder" him?

The police shoot people all the time who, basically, force them to. The dead person, who was a criminal threatening people in one way or another (or he wouldnt have been shot, unless int he case of rare accidents) would have potentially killed others, so his death eliminated the possibility of future deaths. did the police murder the criminal?

The use if the term murder, as being equal to killing, is incorrect.

murder is the premeditated (meaning planned ahead of time) deliberate (not accidental) take of another, innocent (not a serial killer, mad bomber or wild savage waving a weapons) persons life, who is a victim of the person doing the killing. Key words here, premeditated, deliberate, innocent, victim.

that's murder.

Cops don't PLAN to kill suspects, but it happens. even soldiers don't plan to kill anyone, in fact often hope they don't see any enemy at all.

Murder is NOT the same as killing.


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Atarlost wrote:
SuperSlayer wrote:
Pendagast wrote:

well "murder" is specifically unsanctioned killing, not war, crusade, or other forms of conflict where life is lost.

So "murder" can never save lives.

If you murder the person who is plotting to kill 30 people then it will save their lives.

Indeed, murder is often entirely justified.

Regicide is nearly never sanctioned but kings frequently deserve death and even need to die.

Vader tossing Palpatine down a shaft? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act.

Julius Caesar? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act.

Every attempt to kill Hitler that wasn't undertaken by allied intelligence? Unsanctioned. Killing. Good act. Also failure, but competence isn't an alignment axis.

Sanction has nothing to do with good or evil and only so much to do with law and chaos. Julius Caesar, for instance, was killed by the legitimate senate of the Roman Republic to preserve the state and the rule of law, but the Senate had no authority to execute a Consul without deliberation. An act taken in extremis to preserve the law by the legitimate sovereign body must be lawful, even though technically illegal.

Ceasar wasn't killed by the senate, he was killed be the Praetorian Guard, thats different. A group well known for Regicide.

Atar, NONE of those examples were murder or attempted murder. Hitler was a military target for example, and would NOT have fit the key phrase of "innocent".

Vade tossing Palpatine down a shaft? Combat. Not Murder, Palpatine was actively engaged in killing someone else (luke) Vader just made a different decision than Palpatine expected. Still Combat/defense. Palpatine also cannot be considered 'innocent'

Luke's aunt and uncle were murdered. they knew nothing of the droids involvement in the rebellion, had no information for the storm troopers, posed no threat to the empire, and were killed anyway.

That's the difference.


Legally speaking, Murder is when there is the loss of a human life when the taking of said life was done with malice aforethought. Under common law you also need to have premeditation for the highest degree of murder (murder 1). Malice is usually considered something that is done with the intent to cause a certain harm or the knowledge that the harm done will likely cause a certain result.

There are exculpations that can be considered as well. Typically you are within your rights to use deadly force to stop another person from using deadly force to on you OR on a third party. Typically the expectation is that you will use the minimum force required to do the job- so if you dont have to kill the person you should not.

So if you were to use deadly force to end a persons life when that will stop the person from taking another persons life, then you are not guilty of murder.

Is murder evil? Well I suppose that depends- legally if your husband has beat you for 10 years and you kill him you may not meet the criteria for self defense if you kill him while he sleeps.

In the old west people used to hang people as criminals (semi legally) when they caught them doing something wrong WITHOUT a trial, and people were okay with that.

How about we don't apply our current moral system to a game that is as divergent from the world we deal with as could be imagined? Instead we should accept that if a good person ends the life of an evil person its probably okay.


Pendagast wrote:

Ceasar wasn't killed by the senate, he was killed be the Praetorian Guard, thats different. A group well known for Regicide.

Atar, NONE of those examples were murder or attempted murder. Hitler was a military target for example, and would NOT have fit the key phrase of "innocent".

Vade tossing Palpatine down a shaft? Combat. Not Murder, Palpatine was actively engaged in killing someone else (luke) Vader just made a different decision than Palpatine expected. Still Combat/defense. Palpatine also cannot be considered 'innocent'

Luke's aunt and uncle were murdered. they knew nothing of the droids involvement in the rebellion, had no information for the storm troopers, posed no threat to the empire, and were killed anyway.

That's the difference.

This. Said better then my attempt, but exactly what I meant as well.


Also, if a good person (me +/-) ends the life of a whisky bottle, then that has GOT to be right.


Ubercroz wrote:
Also, if a good person (me +/-) ends the life of a whisky bottle, then that has GOT to be right.

Perhaps for you, but I suffer the alcohol alergy, if I drink that whiskey bottle, it's the end of my life - pretty much suicide, thus an evil act (for me...)


gamer-printer wrote:

Murder is still wrong. Capturing someone trying to kill 30 people is the thing to do, not murder them. Sometimes options aren't there to successfully capture a dangerous person, that still doesn't justify murder, ever. If an attempt to capture this dangerous person fails and leads to greater danger, the captors may be forced to kill - then it becomes a self defense killing, not murder.

Although next to impossible, wouldn't it be better to have captured Hitler, hold a trial, condemn him to death, than hang him verses any assassination attempt ever?

I cannot see murdering a probable evil person as being a good act. Neutral perhaps, but not good. You're trying to say the end justifies the means - I don't think that's ever a 'good' thing.

What's the point?

If you're going to go through the trouble of capturing him, smuggling him out of the country, and then having a mock trial for war crimes and executing him, why not cut out the middle man and just kill him on the spot?


Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter). As the loss of a human being inflicts enormous grief upon the individuals close to the victim, as well as the fact that the commission of a murder is highly detrimental to the good order within society, most societies both present and in antiquity have considered it a most serious crime worthy of the harshest of punishment. In most countries, a person convicted of murder is typically given a long prison sentence, possibly a life sentence where permitted, and in some countries, the death penalty may be imposed for such an act — though this practice is becoming less common.[1] In most countries, there is no statute of limitations for murder (no time limit for prosecuting someone for murder).[citation needed] A person who commits murder is called a murderer.[2]


Rynjin wrote:
gamer-printer wrote:

Murder is still wrong. Capturing someone trying to kill 30 people is the thing to do, not murder them. Sometimes options aren't there to successfully capture a dangerous person, that still doesn't justify murder, ever. If an attempt to capture this dangerous person fails and leads to greater danger, the captors may be forced to kill - then it becomes a self defense killing, not murder.

Although next to impossible, wouldn't it be better to have captured Hitler, hold a trial, condemn him to death, than hang him verses any assassination attempt ever?

I cannot see murdering a probable evil person as being a good act. Neutral perhaps, but not good. You're trying to say the end justifies the means - I don't think that's ever a 'good' thing.

What's the point?

If you're going to go through the trouble of capturing him, smuggling him out of the country, and then having a mock trial for war crimes and executing him, why not cut out the middle man and just kill him on the spot?

agreed.

the capture/trial scenario is lawful. the end it now scenario chaotic. the end result is exactly the same.

the necessity of assassinating hitler, is complicated by the German Army Military Oath. It's specific nuances are made to light in "Operation Valkyrie" read the book or rent the movie.

Capture and trial wasn't an option, int he end he committed suicide anyway. Had the war gone on another 18 months, it's possible syphallis might have killed him anyway.

Suffice to say that there were those in the German High Command that were WELL aware of EXACTLY what Hitler and his SS were doing (the holocaust), and part of staging a military coup required killing hitler. (due to extreme complications of the german command structure)
This assassination was necessary to stop the killing of 100s of thousands of innocent prisoners, as well as the continued war that was killing 100s of thousands more.

The men who staged the attempted coup knew that they might fail, and even in doing so, would be proof to the outside world that not all Germans were 'monsters' (something that was thought by Americans at the time). There is a monument to them in Germany, and the attempted Assassins are thought of as National Heroes on the same level General Washington is here in the US.


I always found it fun that in many adventures bad guys make prisonners, and that the good guys (adventurers) kill them and murder the ones that flee or surrender while going to take them back.

In my games, being good means no murder and try to avoid unnecessary killing (it could be stop fighting fleeing opponents).
A good character must accept surrender & should ASK for surrender during battle. It makes for interesting sequences : "so what do we do with our prisonners ?". We suppose the characters here has no authority to sentence someone to death, of course. If they have, solution is easy.
Yes, all this can go against the party's efficiency, being good has its price.

Against beasts that are always evil (like devils - souls beyond redemption) or do not have a soul (plants, undead, oozes...) it doesn't really matter most of the time.

I even think murdering should be reserved to evil characters. So one player can loose his character there, as i don't allow evil characters at the table. It's also one of the main traits of being evil i feel, what's left otherwise ?

If you don't do it close to that way, alignments are near useless, better drop them. And why not.


Since we're talking world history / policy, Israel doesn't think murder (assassination of civilians) is evil.

More generally, this is a question that boils down to which system of ethics you've adopted. A better starting point would not be "is X evil" but rather "which system of ethics does Pathfinder adopt?" Clearly the Pathfinder rules are not based on Moral Relativism.


Not unless you think all killing of sentient is evil: which would be highly problematic for a game based around killing sentient creatures for their stuff.

Murder is a Legal (law chaos axis) distinction. A peasant killing a noble, even in self defense, could very well be illegal in some places (and thus murder) but no one but an absolute pacifist is going to argue that its evil.


beej67 wrote:
Since we're talking world history / policy, Israel doesn't think murder (assassination of civilians) is evil.

... please provide a source for this statement? I've heard nothing like this at all.

beej67 wrote:
More generally, this is a question that boils down to which system of ethics you've adopted. A better starting point would not be "is X evil" but rather "which system of ethics does Pathfinder adopt?" Clearly the Pathfinder rules are not based on Moral Relativism.

This is entirely accurate.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

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Is it evil to murder a demon lord?

Silver Crusade

If you managed, well... demons have evil woven into their core. There is no way they can be peaceful. Sometimes another person in my PFS party intimidates people into surrendering, and then we haul information out of him. When we leave people alive, it's to interrogate them. Why does no one think killing the CE pirate lord is evil? I consider it evil if you offer them a chance to surrender, they accept, and you kill them anyway. So don't offer surrender, and let authorities handle it if you can. Think "what would Batman do?"

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