On the nature of Good and Evil (Or 'Good is hard')


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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A bit...inspired by the Alignments of Pastry thread, I wanted to clear up what appears to be a common misconception (in my opinion) about Good and Evil.

Good is Hard.

Let me repeat that. Good is Hard.

What makes Good hard? Let's go back to basics. At its simplest, Evil is about being willing to hurt others to help yourself. Good, as Evil's opposite, is about being willing to hurt yourself to help others. Evil is selfish, Good is selfless.

Good is also more than 'not doing Evil'. That's Neutral. We equate Good with purity because it is so very easy to lose.

Not stealing? That's easy.
Giving my stuff away to make someone else's life better? That's hard.
Restraining myself from stabbing someone because I don't like them? That's easy.
Risking (or giving!) my life to save some guy I don't even know? That's really hard.

It's difficult enough to remain Good as a monk in a monastery, where temptation is minimized: there will always be the ability to say 'screw this' to celibacy and bland food and working long hours at potentially backbreaking labor for no personal reward.

Good is hard.

It's more difficult in civilization proper, even surrounded by Good-to-Neutral neighbors. The Prisoner's Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons tell us that you do better personally by worrying about yourself first. The orphanage isn't going to close just because you personally don't donate. You earned that money fair and square.

Good is hard.

Being Good as an Adventurer is even harder because, in addition to 'killing things and taking their stuff' being hard to justify in the first place, all of a sudden you're running into all the moral dilemmas that shopkeepers get to avoid. When does killing orcs turn from self-defense into genocide? What do you do with an Evil creature that has surrendered? Am I doing more Good by keeping the magical doodad than selling it to a rich idiot and tithing the proceeds?

Good is hard.

I think there is a certain tendency for people to think 'I consider myself a good person, therefore I'm Good.', and thus lowering the bar. Everyone thinks they're doing the 'right' thing, even Evil ones. That is what makes the alignments different. Most people are Neutral.

Likewise, I've seen comments to the effect of charm person isn't an [Evil] spell, therefore it is fine to use on everyone, all the time. Play-doh is labelled non-toxic, that doesn't mean its food. Charming a person is harm, same as stabbing them with a sword (swords aren't Evil) or lighting them on fire (neither are fireballs and alchemist's fire.) Charming a guard into letting you pass is certainly better than killing them, but it isn't harmless.

Good is hard.

Nor is killing an Evil being always Good: if it were, Good and Evil might as well be Team Red and Team Blue. They are opposites, but they are not perfect mirrors of each other. Paladins aren't Good because they kill Evil things. They are good because they put their lives on the line to protect those who cannot defend themselves. They get a reputation for being Lawful Stupid because they don't always take the expedient path to rooting out Evil, but that is because they know the easy way is not always the Good way, and fear the slippery slope.

Good is hard.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Right on, Ross!

And... I have nothing to add, because you summed it up so well.

Sovereign Court

/signed


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I disagree with the whole premise of this thread. Good is not perfection, nor is good based on a list established by a random set of players who believe good is a certain set of unbreakable principles. Good is so subjective that the alignment system is ridiculous, but if you must have an alignment system only the players are fair adjudicators. A given set of actions can fall anywhere on the good v. evil perspective based on the particular facts, motivations, and knowledge of a person. More importantly it depends on first principles. Is justice more important than freedom? That's a rhetorical question, though I am sure someone will try to "answer" it. The truth is a person whose main principle of good is total freedom is going to behave differently than someone who defines good and total fairness and equality.

Silver Crusade

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Good is freedom.
Good is hard.
Good is not cheap.
Good has its cost.
Good is an ever present choice.
Good is hard.

I agree with you.

Good is hard.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
I disagree with the whole premise of this thread. Good is not perfection, nor is good based on a list established by a random set of players who believe good is a certain set of unbreakable principles. Good is so subjective that the alignment system is ridiculous, but if you must have an alignment system only the players are fair adjudicators. A given set of actions can fall anywhere on the good v. evil perspective based on the particular facts, motivations, and knowledge of a person. More importantly it depends on first principles.

Good is not perfection. How high, exactly, is the bar? I have no idea and that can be debated until the end of time.

My premise was just against my perception that some people seem too willing to label not-Evil as Good. Neutral is not a razor's edge.

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Is justice more important than freedom? That's a rhetorical question, though I am sure someone will try to "answer" it. The truth is a person whose main principle of good is total freedom is going to behave differently than someone who defines good and total fairness and equality.

That's a law-vs-chaos question. Of course a CG and LG person are going to behave different. Both are Good, but each thinks they have a better idea than the other. As I said, everything thinks they have the best alignment.


Ross Byers wrote:

Good is not perfection. How high, exactly, is the bar? I have no idea and that can be debated until the end of time.

My premise was just against my perception that some people seem too willing to label not-Evil as Good. Neutral is not a razor's edge.

On one hand I am inclined to agree with you. A spectrum should have a full middle. But I also worry because I just don't think even a GM is qualified to really determine what settles an action as good. I usually play true neutral as a very practical but over all generous type character. The alignment system just does not allow for practical complexity. I think the best system might involve forcing anyone who declares their characters to be good to explain their ethos and force consistency to those principles. Or do away with alignment.


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I've pondered much on the nature of what being good and evil means, both in real life and in DND. I agree with most of your points, save for one: good is OFTEN hard, but not always. It depends on the nature of the creature in question. Some of us feel more empathy towards those around us. We hate to see suffering so much that we'd rather suffer personally than witness it. To them, being evil is the real challenge, being selfish goes against their beliefs, thoughts, and nature.

A neutral person finds both good and evil difficult because while they can't see themselves placing their lives on the line for someone else (beyond loved ones), they'd be equally aghast at the thought of killing or maiming someone to get what they want.

So really, it boils down to this: it is hard for any person to do something that is out of their nature. This is why, in DND, evil and good creatures - especially outsiders and dragons - will rarely ever be redeemed or fall from grace (though I will admit it's easier for good creatures to fall than for evil creatures to be redeemed).


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Good is Easy.

Villains must work hard an improve themselves. They must plot, plan, conquer and control. They must fight for their ambitions, they must struggle against all who would deny them, and in this most perilous scenario they fight alone.

Heroes have their destiny handed to them, are given a magical sword and told to march at the villain. They have no need to fight alone or carry any burdens. They can ignore the needs of the less fortunate, by citing moral concerns or ethics. They can justify their inability to help as heroic and noble. They have no need to make hard necessary choices and in fact if they wish to be heroes they must avoid such things. Worst of all, to be a hero one need not even succeed in their ambition. To die struggling against a villain is itself Heroic.

Good is easy.

Silver Crusade

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@ Anzyr:
The Good must work hard as well. Ambitions are often demanding, what makes them worthwhile is often the difficulty in attaining them.

Heroes may have destiny handed to them, good people don't necessarily. Much less the evil ignore the needs of the less fortunate because it doesn't concern them unless it works towards their ambitions.

Being the flip here doesn't quite work. Especially because you're comparing "Villains" to "Heroes", and not just acts of good and evil. The connotations here are throwing the argument off.

@Ross:
In the world of Pathfinder, it can quite easily be Red vs Blue, morality is objective in the sense that good and evil tangibly exist and have Gods waving their banners. A Neutral Good Inquisitor can get their jollies horrendously torturing a Daemon for being an abomination, that's fine, despite the morality of torture.
Does this make for good roleplay? Debatable. But it's a very specific character that sees the teams as Red vs Blue, most characters would fall into a similar situation that you're showing.


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Who's to say villains don't have their destiny handed to them? "Oh, your family was betrayed? Here's some great power to use to raise an army and avenge them through war and chaos. Just do my bidding every now and then and we'll call it even. Deal?" Heck, who's to say they weren't even born into that power, that it wasn't their birthright? Or that it wasn't always in their blood, a font of power that's been at their fingertips since day one. Yeah, those scenarios never happen.

The thing about heroes is they're fighting uphill. They're a reactive force by nature, meaning the bad guy is only making his move when the odds are in his favor. The fact that the heroes so often win through, despite their suffering, because the villains were too cocky, stupid, lazy, or any combination of those is just testament that the heroes DO work at least as hard as their counterparts. That's not easy and they don't tend to do it with an army at their back.

Evil is easy. Good is hard.


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Having goals is hard. Having goals on a grand scale is harder.


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Evil is hard.

Evil has nothing to prop itself it up on. Good people need not make hard choices or necessary sacrifices. Good is easy, because it can avoid those all together by propping up it's position as the moral/ethical thing to do. When the going gets tough the Good get to quoting reasons they cannot or when they try and fail they still get to be "good".

Evil does. Want to bring order to the kingdom? Shame that there's people who disagree with you. Good might try to reason with them, but they will never remove the obstacles to peace and stability. Evil will. You can be a great person, but when the chips are down people need someone who *CAN*. And Evil has a lot less restrictions to work around and doesn't bother justifying itself. So you killed Baron Zulthar's whole family? Ya, you're evil. But you can't just use morals and ethics to solve that problem. No you had to work for it, put in some elbow grease and brain matter. But hey now his tax policies aren't making the disenfranchised whisper of rebellion.

Evil is hard.


Having goals on ANY scale is easy. Achieving them, not so much. Woodrow Wilson wanted to see a grand League of Nations formed to prevent another Great War. He failed, miserably. Good act? Check. Grand scale of goals? Check.


Evil can be pretty hard, too. Evil tends to incite other people to oppose it, and as a result, evil tends to die. Orcs aren't known for having the highest life expectancy, and if I recall, it's stated somewhere that most Liches tend to eventually get killed by adventurers. Life as goblins, kobolds, and ogres tends to be filthy, short, and violent. Even the big villains get to watch their plans go down in flames, at some point or another.

It's no wonder that most people are True Neutral; you never have to commit to anything.

Good is hard. Evil is hard. Neutral is easy.


Cerberus Seven wrote:
Having goals on ANY scale is easy. Achieving them, not so much. Woodrow Wilson wanted to see a grand League of Nations formed to prevent another Great War. He failed, miserably. Good act? Check. Grand scale of goals? Check.

I think this is the perfect example. The moral component of any goal is not easy to discern. I think something like the League of Nations, or any attempt to create and international government presents really complex moral questions. Is national sovereignty more important than certain universal cultural values? Do more fiscal sound nations have an obligation to support those in trouble? Grand scale questions are incredible messes from a moral perspective. Good or evil present equally difficult choices and similar paths of difficult depending upon specific goal.


Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Cerberus Seven wrote:
Having goals on ANY scale is easy. Achieving them, not so much. Woodrow Wilson wanted to see a grand League of Nations formed to prevent another Great War. He failed, miserably. Good act? Check. Grand scale of goals? Check.
I think this is the perfect example. The moral component of any goal is not easy to discern. I think something like the League of Nations, or any attempt to create and international government presents really complex moral questions. Is national sovereignty more important than certain universal cultural values? Do more fiscal sound nations have an obligation to support those in trouble? Grand scale questions are incredible messes from a moral perspective. Good or evil present equally difficult choices and similar paths of difficult depending upon specific goal.

Good can avoid this by citing those exact complex moral questions. Thus Good does not even have to make the attempt. Or if it makes the attempt and fails do to the aforementioned complex moral questions, oh well you tried, here's your gold star Good sticker.

Evil tramples over those moral questions and does. Evil accepts that this will bring it enemies and Evil will put its effort into defeating those enemies. These confrontations will be greater than those the Good faces, in part because Evil brings such challenges on itself. But once Evil has dealt with the challenges (which are rather hard), it will succeed where Good will fail.

Scarab Sages

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This is the way I see alignment:

Good is "The needs of the many over the needs of the few" (including the self)

Evil is "The needs of the few (typically the self) over the needs of the many"

Law is "The means justify the ends"

Chaos is "The ends justify the means"

Villains don't have to be evil and lawyers don't have to be lawful

Then again I also remove all [alignment] from spells, save if they have the alignment in the name (Ex. Protection against X or Detect X). If you want to use animate dead to create a cheap labor force to work the fields and provide cheap food for your village/city, casting Speak with Dead first to get their consent, then I see no reason it should be evil-bad. Spells are tools, they are only as good/evil as you make them (save for the ones that directly measure/effect alignment)


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Evil is easy.

It makes its throne upon the bent backs, splintered bones, and broken hearts of those it subjugates, deceives, and harms. It does this easily because it doesn't even bother to think about what the moral or ethical choice might be. Reason being: it's decided it doesn't care. It gets to lie to itself, say 'Well, they deserved it' or 'Hey, I should get something for my troubles anyways'. And the thing about the lies? Eventually, you believe them. It gets so easy to tell them because you yourself start knowing them to be true. To the truly good, truth isn't something you shy away from, even when it hurts the image of who you really are underneath. To the truly evil, it doesn't matter who you are, all that matters is they are not you, so they don't matter.

Good vs evil isn't about acts. That debate can rage until the heat death of the universe. Good vs evil is about thoughts, feelings, and intent. It is the struggle at the core of every man's soul who has not yet slipped into the ease of the psychopath. It is the tug on your conscience that says even if it's only a little help, you should have done it. It is the nagging reminder of all those you've hurt, never giving you rest, sometimes not even when amends are made. It is the knowledge that you are here because civilization happened, and it happened because people tried to look beyond their selfish concerns and work together for a greater good, whatever that may be. Good happens because you're always pushing back at that heavy boulder inside, deciding that it'll be worth it, maybe even for you.

Good never rests. But evil? Evil takes four-day weekends.

Evil is easy.


Timebomb wrote:

This is the way I see alignment:

Good is "The needs of the many over the needs of the few" (including the self)

Evil is "The needs of the few (typically the self) over the needs of the many"

Law is "The means justify the ends"

Chaos is "The ends justify the means"

Villains don't have to be evil and lawyers don't have to be lawful

Then again I also remove all [alignment] from spells, save if they have the alignment in the name (Ex. Protection against X or Detect X). If you want to use animate dead to create a cheap labor force to work the fields and provide cheap food for your village/city, casting Speak with Dead first to get their consent, then I see no reason it should be evil-bad. Spells are tools, they are only as good/evil as you make them (save for the ones that directly measure/effect alignment)

I don't know about some of those summaries (though I agree on Animate Dead, which is half the reason I got Evil's back here).

I'm not sure Good get's to put the needs of the many over the needs of the few and still be good. Evil may be selfish at times, but it can also be completely selfless. Many people have become monsters fighting for the sake of their homeland/beliefs/culture, with no real personal benefit (and often making many personal sacrifices to do so). Though I can see your point on Law and Chaos, that's actually quite good (not the alignment!).

@ Cerberus Seven - Hey know, telling those lies and breaking those backs is hard work. You try subjugating a bunch of people without being pretty cunning/manipulative/strong.


Albus Dumbledore wrote:
Killing is not as easy as the innocent believe.

...or something like that.

Silver Crusade

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Evil tries to confuse us with its theoretical situations! Hypotheticals are never the same as reality.

A man who has devoted himself to the pursuit of good just listens to his instincts and acts!

Why would you use evil means to good ends when you can just use good means to good ends?! You're complicating things for no reason!

Scarab Sages

I agree that the definitions aren't iron clad, but I find them to be good guidelines. Really the're best that I can do to explain good/evil in one sentence (because some people have short attention spans).

On topic, Good I would find to be objectively harder, but Good typically has more allies to work with, and evil with allies typically has to spend resources safeguarding against back-stabs.

Good and evil are both roughly the same difficulty, greatness is hard. Anyone can be a liar or a friendly neighbor; it takes blood, sweat, and tears to be a true paragon, or villain.


Anzyr wrote:
Hey know, telling those lies and breaking those backs is hard work. You try subjugating a bunch of people without being pretty cunning/manipulative/strong.

Oh, I'm sure it seems like hard work...right up until you compare it to the efforts of those who are working to oppose what you do. They struggle at their expense, not for themselves, but for those you've stepped on in your quest for power. And the frustrating thing? Eventually, somewhere down the road, they'll win. No empire lasts forever. That's when the true depth of your failure comes to light. Because for all your supposed strength and cunning, only a fool forgets that, eventually, people burst these supposedly mighty bonds and destroy that which stands in the way of their freedom. As ever, life will find a way.


Stories are inherently about the exceptions. Every legendary hero's story is built on the corpses of those who failed. Stories do not tell us that hero's can overcome Evil. They tell us that every successful hero is the exception, not the rule.

Silver Crusade

Hmm...

He says heroes are exceptions...
...Are exceptions...
...Are exceptional...
...Are exceptionally awesome...

Heroes are exceptionally awesome! I couldn't agree more.

Liberty's Edge

“Something Vimes had learned as a young guard drifted up from memory. If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat.

They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.

So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”

-or-

"Evil will always triumph because good is dumb."

----

Either way, I agree with Ross. Evil is easy. (Its repercussions may not be, but that's a different story).


Anzyr wrote:
Stories are inherently about the exceptions. Every legendary hero's story is built on the corpses of those who failed. Stories do not tell us that hero's can overcome Evil. They tell us that every successful hero is the exception, not the rule.

I believe you've just made my argument for me. In those stories, there are no exceptions to the villain failing due to his hubris and foolishness. If you subscribe to that theorem, the work done by the good in the weight of their sacrifices far outweighs anything the evil had to endure. If you want a less story-like narrative, such as with Idi Amin or Stalin, I think one would find their 'struggle' in wealth and comfort during their entirely too-long lives to be pathetic in comparison to those who fought and died at the hands of them and their minions.

The Exchange

Ross Byers wrote:
Good is hard.

Which is why my character is neutral. Although, he roots for Team Good over Team Neutral (might walk by you as you lie dying on the street) and Team Evil. It's kind of weird rooting for a team you're not on.


I wouldn't necessarily say that good is always hard so much as evil is easy (and neutral is even easier), but that depends on where the standard of good is, and the bar will be set differently depending on different people's interpretations.

...And then the matter gets more complicated when you add in different levels of good. Is the good farmer who is friendly and polite, gives what charity he can, and stands up for friends, family, and neighbours to the extent he is capable no-longer good because the paladin who gives more than he can afford and throws his life on the line for strangers is moree good than he is? Not necessarily. The Paladin may be more good, and perhaps he is taking it to the extreme point where good becomes hard, but the farmer may still be on a less effort-consuming level of goodness.

By Ultimate Campaign's alignment discussion the Paladin may be Good 1 and the Farmer Good 3. The Paladin is more-good, certainly, and is putting more effort into this, but the farmer isn't Neutral, just closer to it than the Paladin is. He's not doing the hard route, he just also not taking the easy route of evil (or the even-easier route of neutral).

He's on a middle-ground of effort, which I would say seems to land him in the Good 3, or "good, leaning towards neutral" range of the alignment.


Gluttony wrote:
I wouldn't necessarily say that good is always hard

I generally agree, but I'd like to take it a step farther. Good not only isn't always hard, it can sometimes be easy.

Because, as the site says, sometimes, Good Feels Good. Sometimes a person simply is good because it makes them happy, and making oneself happy might be one of the easiest things for someone to do, or at least attempt to do.


I think the summary is excellent, except for one factual error that should be corrected.

The Prisoner's Dilemma shows the opposite of what you state. It shows that the better choice is to cooperate. But it is a harder and riskier choice. Which goes with the general theme. Good is hard, and not always self rewarding. Pretty much, being good gets either 1 year or 3, with no chance of freedom. While being selfish gets freedom or 3 years. If both people act selflessly and stay silent, they suffer a lesser sentence than if they both betray each other.

Sovereign Court

Good has a rough start, but when other Good people start to recognize you as one of them, they'll be willing to trust you, and help you when you need them.

Evil that recognizes another evil will always be watching its own back first, and won't sacrifice itself to help out its team.

Good spends much less time fighting itself than evil spends fighting itself.


I believe something different.
I believe something radical ...
I believe in choice.
For me, words as good or evil are how to describe certain chooses in relation to other situations. Therefore when a character does a good thing because he believes it is and want to do that, that a good action, regardless of the conseguences that he was not able to look for.
However, also neutrality is a choice, and a thought one. Neutrality means apaty, balance, and choice to maintain said balance.

However, my idea about good and evil sees good and evil act in different ways:
1) good does create, mantain and give
2) evil does infect, destroy and absorb.

Evil is therefore more insidious. A good society do not actively force people to be good. be good is a consequence of a good environment. An evil society does impone to you be evil because either corrupt you throught not balanced ideals or litterally put you in daily fight or die situation where you have to kill.

Therefore to be good is not "harder" to be, it's simply a more difficult state to reach because it need a lot of teaching and situation that wants you to be good.


However, I've got a thought provoking question!
What if killing, in any way, is an evil act, and therefore even paladins and clerics, when do that, commit evil?

My idea is that, only for them, deities allow them to kill evil mortal creatures (killing metaphisical ones is a different story) because they are their agents and since deities are beyond sin, so are there hands. Later, they give them heaven in change of their services thought their action made them less pure that they should.
If a paladin kills evil, is ok = he dirts his hands for a greater good.
If a paladin oppose evil without killing and redeems people is better because in a - 1 score for the forces of evil.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There's a very well known quote (possibly paraphrased):

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

The implied addition to the end is "to prevent evil from triumphing".

Evil, to me, is the act of causing harm to others without regard for your right or reason to do so. An evil person will cause harm because they can. They may choose to do so capriciously (Chaotic) or with careful planning and forethought, or only to specific groups (Lawful), or just because they like being able to exercise the power causing the harm gives them (Neutral).

A good person, on the other hand, isn't about maintaining the status quo. Keeping things ticking along as they are is Neutral at best. A Good person must put effort into their actions (I hesitate to suggest that they must make sacrifices, but it's likely) to make things better for others.

This is not to say that an Evil person doesn't have to put effort in to be Evil. They pretty much have to, really, because they must intentionally make decisions and take actions that are harmful to others and beneficial to themselves.

Handing over the virgin to the tribute-demanding dragon is Evil.
Fighting the dragon (however futilely) or rallying the citizens to fight it is Good.
Standing by and watching as the dragon takes the virgin is Neutral.


Yay, another potential argument! Anyway...

I'm on the side that true good & evil is hard (in it's own way).

Good is hard for the reasons explicited by the OP (although it can become easy if you have a "virtue is it's own reward" mentality).

Evil is hard because of the consequences in a civilized society (although extreme skill can mitigate the consequences).

I generally think we are pretty much all true neutral, tending towards one side of the spectrum. Only certain very special individuals ever gain another alignement.

My mentality does make certain things weird. Paladins rarely (if ever) get to fight other humanoids in my gameworld. Protection from X is also virtually useless against humanoids.

Shadow Lodge

i disagree with your post.

you describe lawful good, not neutral or chaotic good. i agree with much of your post about helping your community, but thats all good is.

good is, in a nut shell, "actions,or decisions, that assist your community and/or preserve life."

good is not hard, or no harder then allowing yourself to forgive, and evil is not easy. many evil people are more stressed then good people, many evil actions are justifications and can weigh heavily on your conscious.

letting someone go who is begging for their life is a very simple decision, you will sleep easily at night. taking the life of someone who is begging you to spare them can cause mental illness and a shorter lifespan.


TheSideKick wrote:
letting someone go who is begging for their life is a very simple decision, you will sleep easily at night.

Unless you wonder if this person will now commit more evil. Knowing that someone you freed went on to kill an orphanage full of children would wreck a Good character.

Quote:
taking the life of someone who is begging you to spare them can cause mental illness and a shorter lifespan.

If you are Evil then this kind of thing won't bother you at all. In fact, you would revel in it.


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Personal inclination also plays a huge part.

Someone who has an evil inclination will find it difficult to be good.

Someone who has a good inclination will find it difficult being evil.

Someone in the middle (neutral) could drift either way, but evil would be easier because its easier to err towards selfishness with a weak conscience.

Silver Crusade

Chemlak wrote:

There's a very well known quote (possibly paraphrased):

"All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

The implied addition to the end is "to prevent evil from triumphing".

Evil, to me, is the act of causing harm to others without regard for your right or reason to do so. An evil person will cause harm because they can. They may choose to do so capriciously (Chaotic) or with careful planning and forethought, or only to specific groups (Lawful), or just because they like being able to exercise the power causing the harm gives them (Neutral).

A good person, on the other hand, isn't about maintaining the status quo. Keeping things ticking along as they are is Neutral at best. A Good person must put effort into their actions (I hesitate to suggest that they must make sacrifices, but it's likely) to make things better for others.

This is not to say that an Evil person doesn't have to put effort in to be Evil. They pretty much have to, really, because they must intentionally make decisions and take actions that are harmful to others and beneficial to themselves.

Handing over the virgin to the tribute-demanding dragon is Evil.
Fighting the dragon (however futilely) or rallying the citizens to fight it is Good.
Standing by and watching as the dragon takes the virgin is Neutral.

Standing by and watching is Evil.

There are no Neutral moral acts.

This is why the statement is Good is Hard. Its because Good doesn't just get along to get along, it requires focusing on the moral polestar and sailing towards it through hell or high water.

Abandon all conceits of subjectivity. Toss 'his good,' or 'their good' or 'society says its..' into the bonfire.

The efforts of evil are ultimately towards darker aims and those aims are typically towards a good.

Evil is not a positive force. Evil is a privation, it is a lack where there should be something.

The warrior king who wants to conquer the world and rule it is Evil, he uses the goods of his bravery and his valor to accomplish this aim, but he lacks important things such as mercy, compassion or good judgement. He lacks the love that makes a truly good ruler.

The guy who gives into 'realpolitik' and says 'its better if I burn this orphanage, because these guys will help me tomorrow with building twenty more of them,' is doing evil. He's taking the apparently easier path out, and arguing from utilitarianism. Sadly trying to reach the most good, by abandoning good.

Keeping on that good path means having friends turn on you, having people call you fools, seeing your plans potentially fall apart, but still doing the right thing. Thats why its not easy.

Its the nobility of a king whose kingdom tumbles to ruin because he would not sacrifice one person to the Dark Overlord even with a thousand people crying out at the horrors they now are enduring. Its the guy being called all sorts of things wrongly because he won't accept a horrific thing his entire society deems acceptable.

To aim to be good is really to aim to be perfect.

The second you start saying 'I'm ok, really' you're falling short and starting to give in just that little bit to evil. Its ok if I do... Well, everyone kind of does.. And so on.


I find evil is hard. It's starts off easier but get harder and harder as you progress. You just make too many enemies. It's actually fun to play though be end in your demise.

I guess really being good or evil is hard. The easy route is to not pick and be neutral.


There's a reason why Dante had the neutral angels just inside Hell, but not really a part of it.


Some thoughts from the other thread (apply to in-real-life morality, but may be relevant to the game world as well):

Evil is doing to others that which you wouldn't want done to you.

Evil is that which, when always applied by everyone to some activity, renders the activity practically worthless.

Evil is that which nobody wants for themselves.

Evil is the lack of proper good; in particular, an evil man is a man lacking the goodness proper to mankind.

Deontological theories typically emphasize morality of the means, while utilitarian theories typically emphasize morality of the ends (a simplification, but bear with me). Is lying always wrong (evil)? Or are there situations in which lying can be right (good)? In real life, this is a question which has never been answered, nor is it likely ever to be answered, short of some transcendental occurrence (the second coming, scientific discovery of objective morality, etc.)

In the game world, I see no argument that can possibly override rule zero: the GM decides, in nearly (but possibly not all*) cases, what constitutes good and evil. You may not agree that the morality enforced in-game is a good system in real life, but them's the breaks. If the differences are irreconcilable, find another GM. All that said, I think there are some criteria for a good in-game morality (intended as food for thought for GMs trying to determine how to handle alignment issues): keep it consistent and keep it objective.

In real life, we have no great way to test whether an action is evil or not. However, I think I recall reading that Detect Evil pings on evil intentions (i.e., a good or neutral character currently intending to commit something which happens to be evil). In such a world, morality is much more black and white than it is for us.


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Ross Byers wrote:

A bit...inspired by the Alignments of Pastry thread, I wanted to clear up what appears to be a common misconception (in my opinion) about Good and Evil.

Good is Hard.

Let me repeat that. Good is Hard.

What makes Good hard? Let's go back to basics. At its simplest, Evil is about being willing to hurt others to help yourself. Good, as Evil's opposite, is about being willing to hurt yourself to help others. Evil is selfish, Good is selfless.

Nonsense. :)

Evil is hurting and making things worse. Good is helping, making things better.

By your definition someone who helps a ton of people and makes the world a better place without sacrificing is not good while someone who sacrifices and hurts themselves a lot to help someone else in a minor way is good.

Sacrifice is not good. Selfless fanatic evil cultists regularly sacrifice themselves for their evil cause and leaders and gods. They are evil.

Selfish and selfless do not equate to evil and good.

Quote:

Good is also more than 'not doing Evil'. That's Neutral. We equate Good with purity because it is so very easy to lose.

Not stealing? That's easy.
Giving my stuff away to make someone else's life better? That's hard.
Restraining myself from stabbing someone because I don't like them? That's easy.
Risking (or giving!) my life to save some guy I don't even know? That's really hard.

Quote:

That is all unnecessary.

A lifeguard rescuing a drowning person is a hero and does good, even though they trained for it and it is easy for them, they get paid to do it, and they do not need to risk or give their life to do so. They saved a life and did good. They choose a job where they can do good, a good choice.

Quote:

It's difficult enough to remain Good as a monk in a monastery, where temptation is minimized: there will always be the ability to say 'screw this' to celibacy and bland food and working long hours at potentially backbreaking labor for no personal reward.

Good is hard.

Nah, go the aristotilean path, get in the habit of doing good. The more you are in the habit of doing good the more it will come naturally, feel pleasurable, and be easy.


aegrisomnia wrote:
In the game world, I see no argument that can possibly override rule zero: the GM decides ... what constitutes good and evil. You may not agree ... but them's the breaks. If the differences are irreconcilable, find another GM.

Yep.

I think this is to what it boils down.

If you find yourself thinking, or saying, "How can you make that call?!" time and again, you're better off finding another game rather than regularly feeling that vein in your forehead throb.


Good summary Ross. I think lots of the posters here have valid (almost said good) and insightful comments about alignment. I love philosophical questions so I love the alignment system. For me, however, the system is like a greased pig. The more you try to grapple with it the more it slips away. So it goes with alignment. The more you try to quantify it the harder it gets. I like your simple approach. Pick a few identifiers of alignment such as "selfless" vs. "selfish" and then go with it. If you try to get into the infinite possiblities and exceptions then you get bogged down and the system collapses.

Silver Crusade

Good acts and evil acts are like pornography. Almost impossible to clearly define but obvious when you see them.


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Ross Byers wrote:

...to clear up what appears to be a common misconception (in my opinion) about Good and Evil.

Good is Hard.

Excellent post

now if you could please-oh-so-very-please post about what is Law in equally eloquent manner, you'd be my hero for the year.


Mike Franke wrote:
If you try to get into the infinite possiblities and exceptions then you get bogged down and the system collapses.

Also, can stupid PC's actually be good, or is it all so complicated you require a degree in philosophy to pass the alignment test?

If your PC has an intelligence score of 8, you should probably just assume he's going to stuff it all up and default to evil. ;)

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