Lawful Evil and being "Good"


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I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

And if it were possible for such a character to exist, where would they go when they died? Would their soul be damned because of the extreme lengths they took to do good, or would they be allowed into a good or even neutral aligned afterlife?

Finally, if such a character couldn't exist (cause good is good and evil is bad), then what other alignments could fulfill these criteria, of being a cold, merciless, ends justify the means, for the greater good type character?

Liberty's Edge

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Sounds a lot like neutral to me.


How good is the greater good? Are you not pulling your punches against demons, or are you not pulling your punches against heroes and allies? Are you sacrificing your purity in the name of an ideal, or are you keeping your purity by fighting for an ideal?


It could happen. After a time though, the character's "good" associates would take note of some of his tactics, cruelty, mercilessness, etc. Maybe he gets a chance after they talk to him, maybe they just stop trusting him. In the end though, I think the relationship would end.


Khasalianus Nightstar wrote:

I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

And if it were possible for such a character to exist, where would they go when they died? Would their soul be damned because of the extreme lengths they took to do good, or would they be allowed into a good or even neutral aligned afterlife?

Finally, if such a character couldn't exist (cause good is good and evil is bad), then what other alignments could fulfill these criteria, of being a cold, merciless, ends justify the means, for the greater good type character?

Yes, i play this character. The important part is in order to maintain your alignment, you must have a scheme for why you need the good will of so many people.

For example, my character is a Drow Necromancer who dislikes the way Lolth shaped the Drow people, and thinks he would be a better god by refocusing them into a military society, so he wants to kill her. He does quests and "nice" things for surface worlders that matter, like town leaders and kings, but doesnt care about little people like townsfolk and the like. The entire point is to get a compliant army of people who owe him favors to help him with his end goal, and anything that doesnt serve that goal he has no reason to be "nice" about.

Such a character would go to hell, or its equivalent, because his ruthless ambition is no less self centered just because his actions happen to help others. Its about motives.

But thats not an "ends justify the means" character, Lawful Evil is about "how can I attain my ends while maintaining order" what youre looking for is more Chaotic or Neutral Neutral.


Khasalianus Nightstar wrote:

I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

And if it were possible for such a character to exist, where would they go when they died? Would their soul be damned because of the extreme lengths they took to do good, or would they be allowed into a good or even neutral aligned afterlife?

Sure he can be there. He simply cares about his personal progress and not about the methods he has to employ to get what he wants. And if the easiest and safest way to get power is "being Mr. Nice Guy" for the moment then that is what such a character will do. Get into the good graces of the nobility, having trustworthy allies is always a big boon. Especially when someone powerful comes gunning for you and the allies you made will NOT see this as an excellent opportunity to put a dagger in your back.

Doing "good" stuff for your own selfish reasons is perfectly logical. And then slaughtering a whole room full of people in your way, because you know that if you kill them all right now and incinerate their bodies yu will get away with it and it wont tarnish your reputation - thats a go.

This kind of LE character plays with ALL the options on the table.

---

To the post-Death question:
In Golarion you get judged by Pharasma and in difficult cases there is a real court-like proceeding where agents of your Alignment and your Patron God argue over where you should go if there is a non-standart case. So above Mr. LE who often plays Mr. Niceguy could very easily and almost guaranteed be put into Abadar's Afterlive if he was one of Abadars followers when trying to build society "the right way" aka more Abadarish instead of Lolth-ish. If he was a follower of Gorum when trying to install a more militarist society in a LE way it might be possible that he could go into Gorums Afterlive.

Generally how devoted you were to your Patrongod weights stronger then simply Alignment when choosing the Afterlive.

Scarab Sages

Lawful Evil is status conscious and selfish. He'll gladly do good if it advances his own position or furthers the goals of his in-group, but he'll make sure that everyone rewards/recognizes his contribution and won't be averse to lording it over everyone else how awesome his help was.

And if helping out doesn't benefit him or his in-group, he won't help.

There's some really good resources in this book for making alignment more functional in the game.


Khasalianus Nightstar wrote:

I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

And if it were possible for such a character to exist, where would they go when they died? Would their soul be damned because of the extreme lengths they took to do good, or would they be allowed into a good or even neutral aligned afterlife?

Finally, if such a character couldn't exist (cause good is good and evil is bad), then what other alignments could fulfill these criteria, of being a cold, merciless, ends justify the means, for the greater good type character?

I am introducing a Lawful Evil undead Lord Cleric/Heretic inquisitor to a campaign. His name is Xerxes.

The basic jist of the character is that he hails from a noble bloodline in some far away kingdom. Such kingdom gets invaded my another opposing kingdom.

Things look grim, and Xerxes sees his men being slaughtered left and right, and the tide of war looks unfavorable. So Xerxes resort to the best way to bolster his ranks. He animates his fallen friends and trusted allies in battle to fend of the invasion.

He is succesfull and returns to his kingdom anticipating great reward. However, the act of raising dead is STRICTLY evil. And he is shunned, and exiled.
Xerxes is angered for having to resort to raising his friends, and then being exiled by the very people he protected. He takes his skeleton army, and one of his loyal Vassals bitter and angry.

Now he hopes to join some adventure group, and travel the world in hopes of protecting small villages with his men who dont need sleep or eating. In turn, he will gain fame, and recognition, and perhaps by helping people eventually become a lord of his own domain.

He wants to establish order and protection = Lawful

He uses necromancy to establish such deeds = Evil

Protects innocent people from bandits, mauraders, and rids the world of monstrosities = good

Wants to become the lord he was not appreciated to be = Lawful Evil.

what one should watch out for is strictly evil acts that can derail an Adventure Path. Killing someone out of anger, or desecrating holy spaces automatically make one a pariah and a liability. A lawful evil character can respect laws, and bestow mercy on people. But feel no remorse in killing law breakers and those who endanger the innocent.

Grand Lodge

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But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.

Example: I played a LE character once in Curse of the Crimson Throne. My end goal was to quell the chaos that has overrun the city that I grew up in and cared for dearly. The evil in me meant I'd do what I had to do to accomplish this goal with little to no remorse in my actions. I would never betray anyone that trusted me, but I'd murder random people if it got me closer to my goal.

Edit: for good alignments, ends do NOT justify means. Committing an evil act for a "good" reason is still evil.

Liberty's Edge

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If there is one thing that I am growing tired of, it is the idea that Lawful Evil is seen as the "Good kind of evil." Yes, Lawful Evil characters CAN maintain certain behavioral standards and follow codes of conduct that many may consider moral and decent. But you know what? So can Neutral Evil and Chaotic Evil Characters.

For example, can just as easily have a Neutral Evil character who cares deeply about his/her society and will do absolutely anything to protect it, up to and including torture, assassination and outright genocide. They are willing to get their hands bloody and their souls blackened for the greater good.

Likewise, you can have a Chaotic Evil freedom fighter who genuinely wants to free oppressed people from the bondage of their cruel overlords. But how does he do this? By spreading terror through murder, rape, and arson against the cruel overlords, and those near and dear to the cruel overlords.

Characters of any evil alignment can have goals, which on their face may seem positive. What makes these characters evil is the horrible means by which the seek to achieve their positive ends. Evil characters will often seek to justify these actions by saying that they were reasonable and necessary to bring about positive change.


Some Other Guy wrote:
But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.

Torture is generally considered to be evil. But what if I am torturing someone evil to find information to protect those who are good? Creating undead is considered evil, but what if I am creating undead from my fallen enemies to protect my people? Evil doesn't have to be self serving. It just usually is.


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Hellknights dedicate themselves to the "greater good." However, their methods may be extreme in pursuit of their goals ("Kill them all; [Pharasma] will sort them out" is a classic example of this). Also, their definition of "good" may be short-sighted and/or overly restrictive: the Order of the Nail bringing "civilization" to other cultures by conquest/forced assimilation or even genocide, the Order of the Pyre destroying any influences from other cultures (regardless of if they are beneficial/harmful), the Order of the Rack's efforts to censor ideas that are "dangerous" (to the status quo; and their place in it), etc.


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Melkiador wrote:
Some Other Guy wrote:
But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.
Torture is generally considered to be evil. But what if I am torturing someone evil to find information to protect those who are good? Creating undead is considered evil, but what if I am creating undead from my fallen enemies to protect my people? Evil doesn't have to be self serving. It just usually is.

It's still evil, regardless of the reason. The individual may have "good intentions," but...


Louis Lyons wrote:
If there is one thing that I am growing tired of, it is the idea that Lawful Evil is seen as the "Good kind of evil."

A look at the new Cheliax book should disabuse many of that notion.


Mmm, alignment threads.

I've toyed with the idea of having a good-hearted necromancer. She'd be happy and perky and be just off about how folks feel about her version of recycling natural resources.

I'd say unless it's VITAL that you have Alignment X, don't worry about it and just follow your heart (or whatever). And let actions and intent determine what you are.

Wait, I just started an actions vs intent debate, didn't I?

Silver Crusade

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I really hate this persistent idea that lawful evil is somehow less evil.


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Lawful evil is "evil you can work with."

That is not the same as less evil.


Orfamay Quest wrote:

Lawful evil is "evil you can work with."

That is not the same as less evil.

This idea probably comes from folks seeing 'Lawful' as a brake on the evil -- there are just some things you don't do, even as a horrible tyrant.

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Fernn wrote:

He wants to establish order and protection = Lawful

He uses necromancy to establish such deeds = Evil

Protects innocent law-abiding people from bandits, marauders, and rids the world of monstrosities = Lawful

Wants to become the lord he was not appreciated to be (by whatever methods necessary) = Evil

what one should watch out for is strictly evil acts that can derail an Adventure Path. Killing someone out of anger, or desecrating holy spaces automatically make one a pariah and a liability. A lawful evil character can respect laws, and bestow mercy on people. But feel no remorse in killing law breakers and those who endanger the innocent those he is protecting.

A LE person isn't really concerned about 'the innocent'. IF he has no personal investment or profit to be made, the innocent can die with everyone else. And killing the innocent in order to punish the guilty is a perfectly valid tactic (wipe out the family you can catch of the outlaw that you can't has been a historical tactic for MANY rulers). China does that to this day, punishing the family of expatriates overseas who speak out against China, and removing from government positions any relatives of a person found guilty of corruption or acting against the government.

Note that a LN person can also act VERY cold-bloodedly as long as he is serving the 'greater good' and doesn't personally profit from the evil of a decision. For instance, shooting down refugees trying to get into a town so they aren't massacred by the orcs behind them, or putting to the torch a town of plague-infested.

Note that as soon as you start invoking the 'greater good' you are probably talking Law, not Goodness, as that is how Law justifies things. True Good tends to be about what is 'right', not what is better on the scale of 1 to 10. Indeed, the person rebelling against what society tolerates to do the 'right' thing is exhibiting Goodness over Law.

And if you think pure LN can't be ice cold deadly, just look at Warhammer 40k, who takes the trope to 10. Killing off a whole planet of innocents with Exterminatus to deny them to the Tyrannids, or to take the orc horde with them? Not a problem. There's always more people where they came from.

==Aelryinth

Scarab Sages

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Orfamay Quest wrote:

Lawful evil is "evil you can work with."

That is not the same as less evil.

And even that isn't necessarily true - ever tried to do a group project with an intolerant bully?

I'm both tired of and rather bothered by this idea that Lawful Evil is somehow the "best" Evil - a half-decent study of history will an excellent job of demonstrating how it is, if anything, the worst.

A Lawful Evil person who fights for a Good cause (as OP initially described) is going to be the one who, if they stick around after the fighting, ruins everything by misattributing what mattered and making short work of the "Good" they were fighting for (for example, someone who fights for the liberation of an oppressed group of which they are a member, but turns the movement's original vision of "liberty, justice, and equality" into "I fought for my group because they're my group, and I'm going to be as oppressive to everyone not in my group as others were to me and not care about the hypocrisy").

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Qaianna wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:

Lawful evil is "evil you can work with."

That is not the same as less evil.

This idea probably comes from folks seeing 'Lawful' as a brake on the evil -- there are just some things you don't do, even as a horrible tyrant.

Oh, LE is much, much worse then CE...because what CE does freely, uninhibited and randomly, LE PLANS to do, and carries out efficiently when it is time to do so.

When you are working with them, you are simply gambling that now is not the time.

==Aelryinth

Accountant

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Khasalianus Nightstar wrote:

I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

And if it were possible for such a character to exist, where would they go when they died? Would their soul be damned because of the extreme lengths they took to do good, or would they be allowed into a good or even neutral aligned afterlife?

Finally, if such a character couldn't exist (cause good is good and evil is bad), then what other alignments could fulfill these criteria, of being a cold, merciless, ends justify the means, for the greater good type character?

You should check out a book called Villains by Necessity. It's a difficult find because it's been out of print for quite some time, but the story basically revolves around a band of villains who need to be bad otherwise the world will end because the balance of good vs evil has been thrown off.

I'm not sure where this band of characters would end up in Golarion lore. It would seem to me like doing bad for the greater good would land you in at least some kind of neutral afterlife, but I'm not versed enough on Golarion religions to really say. The universe in this book requires evil in the world in order for there to be balance, which might not be explicitly needed in Golarion.

Scarab Sages

There is also the fallacy that "Chaotic Evil means worst possible actions," when that's like the common misinterpretation of Murphy's Law: Whatever can happen, will happen - the worst-case scenario is just what fearful minds are artificially biased toward.

And because it is Lawful Evil that represents those "fearful of the worst-case scenario coming out of the Unknown," it is in fact Lawful Evil that is MORE likely to make a beeline for those outcomes.


The OP might want to consider whether Lawful Neutral could work for a character who brutally enforces the Law as a matter of pragmatism but basically supports mostly "Good" causes. Such a character might even have regrets like, "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the pitiful cries of those goblin babies as they burned. I had to protect the kingdom from monsters though. I just had to!"

If the character secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) lusts for the chance to commit violence and torture that's probably closer to LE with the Lawful restraining the Evil so that it is only openly expressed in certain sanctioned situations. Such a PC might have extremely twisted urges which he generally represses but gets to release to some degree while punishing and interrogating his foes.

Of course those are just my own ideas. People can rarely agree about alignment. I don't think that having an "extreme" alignment should mean that you have to be clinically insane, but I guess that characters who are at least marginally unbalanced are often more interesting to roleplay.

Dark Archive

Khasalianus Nightstar wrote:
I know generally that good is good and evil is bad, but how good could a Lawful Evil character be? Could an LE character fight on the side of good, but be the type that doesn't know mercy, pull punches, and generally does whatever it takes to get the job done, for the greater good? Especially if it served his purposes, perhaps allowing him to advance in a society, gaining power and security.

Makes me think of the Operative, from Serenity.

The Operative: 'It's not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.'
Malcolm Reynolds: 'So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?'
The Operative: 'Oh, I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.'

I have no idea if the d20 concept of alignment is robust enough to allow that sort of character, or someone who is willing to use unlawful or occasionally downright wicked tactics like Batman or the Punisher or some of the cops on TV who are willing to overlook certain rules of procedure or niceties of 'we don't turn off the camera and beat up the dude in interrogation, Billy.'

Quote:
Finally, if such a character couldn't exist (cause good is good and evil is bad), then what other alignments could fulfill these criteria, of being a cold, merciless, ends justify the means, for the greater good type character?

Lawful Neutral, perhaps. It can be frighteningly reductionistic, willing to allow a few to die to save many, for instance, and that sort of logic maps over pretty well to the 'I must do this evil thing (like genocide orcs or dragons or ghosts) for the benefit of future generations.'

(As opposed to a less righteous-sounding justification like, 'they're all evil anyway, so it's not even evil to genocide them!' which is a hairs-breadth away from 'if I kill all the children of all the races, nobody can ever grow up to be evil! Arsenic milkshakes for all the children, and let's party, because everyone's going to heaven!')

Grand Lodge

Melkiador wrote:
Some Other Guy wrote:
But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.
Torture is generally considered to be evil. But what if I am torturing someone evil to find information to protect those who are good? Creating undead is considered evil, but what if I am creating undead from my fallen enemies to protect my people? Evil doesn't have to be self serving. It just usually is.

It's still evil regardless of intentions. That's the point I was trying to make. There is always a non-evil way to accomplish your goals.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
Some Other Guy wrote:
But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.
Torture is generally considered to be evil. But what if I am torturing someone evil to find information to protect those who are good? Creating undead is considered evil, but what if I am creating undead from my fallen enemies to protect my people? Evil doesn't have to be self serving. It just usually is.
It's still evil, regardless of the reason. The individual may have "good intentions," but...

The road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Louis Lyons wrote:
If there is one thing that I am growing tired of, it is the idea that Lawful Evil is seen as the "Good kind of evil."
A look at the new Cheliax book should disabuse many of that notion.

I don't think people saw LE as the "good" evil. They saw LE as the type of evil an otherwise good party could work with, without having PVP be an absolute certainty. LE can shelve their personal desires and do "good" while looking for opportunities to further their evil ends. They can do evil things in non-obvious ways that only come to fruition after time. They are the long term evil planning alignment and tend to be less short sighted and "stab-you-in-the-back"-ish than NE or CE.


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Set wrote:


Makes me think of the Operative, from Serenity.

The Operative: 'It's not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin.'
Malcolm Reynolds: 'So me and mine gotta lay down and die... so you can live in your better world?'
The Operative: 'Oh, I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there... any more than there is for you. Malcolm... I'm a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.'

The problem with that analysis is that the people that the Operative serve, and their vision for the future that he was working towards was totally one hundred percent Evil. In both what it produced accidentally in the Reavers and what it was working towards, making the mass population into mindlessly subservient drones.

The Operative may not have considered himself worthy of the perfect world he was trying to create... but he seemed to have totally missed the point that that world itself would have been Hell.

The Operative is evil because he takes no regard, no pause about who he hurts, kills, or destroys in his goal. He has delusions that he's performing good but that's because he's fundamentally sociopathically insane.


Some Other Guy wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
Some Other Guy wrote:
But what is the greater good? I never really understood what that means and people seem to use it to justify anything and everything. Alignment doesn't need to be complicated. It's as simple as good serves others, evil serves self. Good is about what goal you're achieving and evil is about how you achieve that goal.
Torture is generally considered to be evil. But what if I am torturing someone evil to find information to protect those who are good? Creating undead is considered evil, but what if I am creating undead from my fallen enemies to protect my people? Evil doesn't have to be self serving. It just usually is.
It's still evil regardless of intentions. That's the point I was trying to make. There is always a non-evil way to accomplish your goals.

My point was mainly just that evil isn't necessarily self serving.

That's mostly what "greater good" means. It doesn't mean the action is actually good. It just means that the evil action will accomplish more good than other actions, including inaction.

Grand Lodge

Melkiador wrote:
My point was mainly just that evil isn't necessarily self serving. That's what "greater good" means. It doesn't mean the action is actually good. It just means that the evil action will accomplish more good than other actions, including inaction.

That still doesn't mean anything to me. I've seen/heard/read many different definitions of "greater good", but it always sounds like a cop out to me. It's always "doing that is evil" and then the rebuttal is "but greater good". I'm not buying it.

As for evil being self-serving, there are always exceptions to everything ever but the basic principle of evil is selfishness.


I think a better example than the Operative from Serenity may be Thane Krios from Mass Effect 2.

Thane is arguably somewhere between LE and LN. He's an assassin. But he works for the Hannar to do the dirty work for them that they are not capable of doing to provide a "better" universe for a majority of sentients.


There is the old one where you are locked in a booth and you see a train heading to to run over 10 people tied to the tracks. Your only option is to push a button that will switch the train to a different track, but there is also one person tied to those tracks. There is no other way to save the 10. Do you push the button? Do you kill one person to save 10?

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You blow up or derail the train. Which is ALSO the wrong solution, because generally the life of one person doesn't have an economic value equal to the value of the property damage you are going to do.

"You're f'd" problems don't have evil resolutions. The evil is in the hands of the person that tied all those people to the tracks. Put the blame where it goes...it's not a philosophical question.

You can make this even more ambiguous by making the ten people criminals and the people on the other tracks all geniuses, children, or something else.

Regardless, the evil in this is the person who set up the situation, not on you.

==Aelryinth


Aelryinth wrote:


Regardless, the evil in this is the person who set up the situation, not on you.

==Aelryinth

Ok then take away that evil person. You and 11 of your friends had a wild party in the train yard. You woke up naked and locked in the booth. 10 of your friends passed out on the first track. One of your friends passed out on the second.


There is no "good solution" in the trolley problem. Though there are "optimized solutions" based on your philosophical outlook.


Claxon wrote:

There is no "good solution" in the trolley problem. Though there are "optimized solutions" based on your philosophical outlook.

That's what greater good is. The optimized solution. The option that does the least evil and the most good.

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Melkiador wrote:
Aelryinth wrote:


Regardless, the evil in this is the person who set up the situation, not on you.

==Aelryinth

Ok then take away that evil person. You and 11 of your friends had a wild party in the train yard. You woke up naked and locked in the booth. 10 of your friends passed out on the first track. One of your friends passed out on the second.

Still contrived. YOur solution is to STOP THE TRAIN. Since there is no way this would happen in reality (really? EVERYONE is on the tracks?) someone set this up, and they are to blame.

Let's make it MORE contrived. The lone guy is the shy nerd who is going to solve cancer, and the ten schmucks are going to accidentally run a school bus full of children off the road in six months.

It's a No-win solution, put the blame where it belongs.

==Aelryinth


Melkiador wrote:
Claxon wrote:

There is no "good solution" in the trolley problem. Though there are "optimized solutions" based on your philosophical outlook.

That's what greater good is. The optimized solution. The option that does the least evil and the most good.

That is why the "Greater Good" is often not actually good, depending on your philosophical outlook.

Personally I am more utilitarian, and will kill the 1 in almost every situation to save the more than 1 with the idea that all lives are approximately equal in value.

The problem comes into play when you start adding in individuals of greatly known value who will contribute to society in some great way, versus unknown multiple individuals.

It is worth noting that I also consider myself to be lawful neutral to lawful evil and most specifically not good. Which only further reinforces to me that the "Greater Good" isn't necessarily good.


Well, there are a few things at play here. First is the objectivity of Good/Evil as tangible forces in the universe. Pathfinder is predicated on the idea that Good and Evil aren't just abstract, subjective matters of behavior, but real, tangible forces, as real as gravity and electromagnetism. In Pathfinder cosmology and meta-reality, Good and Evil are both real forces as well as a meta-matter. Celestial beings are, literally, "made of Good" (capital G) while Fiends are "made of Evil" (capital E) in the same way that Fire Elementals are "made of Fire" (capital F). So, when we're talking about matters of planar influence and interaction, you must treat the four Alignment energies (Good, Evil, Chaos, Law) as being real, objective, and tangible just as the four Elemental energies (Fire, Cold, Lightening, Acid) and the two Primal energies (Positive, Negative).

Second, is the moral inequality between Good and Evil. Good seeks cooperation and compassion while Evil seeks competition and destruction. Good wants to work together to protect the innocent, and so, takes on more of a "united we stand" view. By comparison, Evil is the exact opposite of the "united" front; Evil is all about competition and, in order for one to rise, another must consequentially fall. So working together comes naturally to those who are Good. Evil, on the other hand, considers anyone a fair rival and competitor; allies are transient and each side in an "alliance" is looking for the opportunity to capitalize on the other for self-gain. Thus, both Good and Evil will actively fight Evil; Good is united and fights Evil as a united front; Evil is divided and in-fights with other Evil forces. So just fighting against Evil doesn't automatically make you Good; "the enemy of my enemy is my next target". Additionally, Evil can "fake" being good without actually being good but not the other way around. If an Evil person spares an innocent as either a whim, as part of a ruse, or purely out of self-interest, that is VERY different from a Good person killing an innocent "for the Greater Good".

Lastly, Neutral is a valid option both for those who intend to "walk the razor's edge" as well as for those who simply don't care one way or the other. If actions, good or evil, are merely tools for you and you'll use either if convenient, then it doesn't matter if you consistently pick the "good" tool because you aren't actively promoting or supporting it; it just so happens to be convenient more often than not. It's the active commitment to Good that distinguishes a "Good" act from a "good" act (note capitalization). A Good character, for instance, protects the innocent because he is Good. A Neutral character could protect those same innocent but not "because" he is Good but for any number of reasons (just because he can, expects a reward, sees the challenge as a way to personal strength, etc). And an Evil character could protect those same innocent but on account of Evil reasons (demands an exorbitant reward, wants to corrupt them later, to draw their faith away from a Good deity, etc). In these examples, the Good character's actions reinforce his alignment towards the cosmological force of Good because he is devoted to Good. But the Neutral and Evil character's actions would be neutral actions because they are done without commitment. But if these characters became, for whatever reason, committed to Good through their actions, that is very different.

That having been said, lets analyze the case at hand for an LE character using merciless tactics to pursue the "greater good". First off, merciless tactics. He has no qualms about killing his adversary or massively overpowering a weaker opponent. As stated above, the distinction will, necessarily, come from whether the "win" is seen as all-important (an Evil trait) or if "winning" is merely a necessary tool to achieve his goals (a Neutral trait). Second, is "greater good". Is this character devoted to "Good", or is he devoted to a personal concept of "good" as he sees it (note capitalization)? Being devoted to actual Good is, by definition, a Good trait. But being devoted to a personal standard that doesn't really line up with objective Good but, rather, is "good as I see it" may be called "greater good" but that isn't necessarily "Greater Good" because real "Greater Good" doesn't compromise; you don't need to use "Evil" tactics to promote Greater Good because Greater Good guarantees itself through your raw devotion. Not "Might makes Right" but, rather, "Right makes Might". So, lets look at the combinations and results:

1) Merciless as tool (N) + objectively, devotedly Good (G) = Good so long as he keeps winning. Remember, Greater Good proves itself so if the character is truly devoted to real Greater Good as well as Merciless as a tool without slipping into merciless for the sake of the win, but loses anyway, he'd necessarily need to re-evaluate "being merciless" as a valid tool. If he clings to "mercilessness", then he slips down into Neutral. If he decides to be less merciless to better emphasize Greater Good, then he stays Good.

2) Merciless as a tool (N) + personal, subjective "greater good" (N) = Neutral. He "claims" to be devoted to what he calls good, but it's not "Good", it's some set of moral guidelines that has no backing by the meta-verse, thus, Neutral.

3) Merciless as a rule (E) + objectively, devotedly Good (G) = Neutral. This is more of a "razor's edge" Neutral because it encompasses two opposed energies. He is honestly devoted to the concept of Good and, essentially, martyrs himself by using the power of Evil in order to fight Evil. The ends do not justify the means so even if he is actively working towards Good, his actions are actively working against Good so he represents a balance of forces rather than the "Neutrality of apathy" where character merely lacks commitment one way or the other. You can't have your cake and eat it too, though, so even though he "fights for Heaven" so to speak, he'll never get there himself.

4) Merciless as a rule (E) + personal, subjective "greater good" (N) = Evil. Since his goal is subjective, it bears no weight on his alignment unless his "definition" of "Greater Good" involves active Evil in which case this is very Evil, but his actions are already weighing his alignment towards Evil anyway so that's a moot point. In his mind, winning is all-important for the sake of something that isn't Good (no matter how much he calls it such) so his "greater good" is a matter of personal power at the expense of others more than anything else.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

It's the 'greater good'. Small g.

It should be 'greater benefit and least cost to society', but hey, why not conflate society and goodness, it's what Russia and China do.

==Aelryinth


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I've always gone with ruling that 'Good' is Selfless or Altruistic and that 'Evil' is Selfish and those alignments have no other requirements. Also, by this logic, I would argue that most humans are LE or NE.
A LE or NE can still work well in a party, because he will go out of his way (just a little) to help them knowing that they will help him in the future.
"You can't kill my healer! I need him to fix my future stab wounds!"


Aelryinth wrote:
Melkiador wrote:
Aelryinth wrote:


Regardless, the evil in this is the person who set up the situation, not on you.

==Aelryinth

Ok then take away that evil person. You and 11 of your friends had a wild party in the train yard. You woke up naked and locked in the booth. 10 of your friends passed out on the first track. One of your friends passed out on the second.

Still contrived. YOur solution is to STOP THE TRAIN. Since there is no way this would happen in reality (really? EVERYONE is on the tracks?) someone set this up, and they are to blame.

Let's make it MORE contrived. The lone guy is the shy nerd who is going to solve cancer, and the ten schmucks are going to accidentally run a school bus full of children off the road in six months.

It's a No-win solution, put the blame where it belongs.

==Aelryinth

Saying its contrived doesn't matter. It's an abstraction. Stopping the train isn't an option. You are naked in a booth with only a button that does nothing more than switch the train to track b. You are only in there by accident.

Grand Lodge

Claxon wrote:
There is no "good solution" in the trolley problem. Though there are "optimized solutions" based on your philosophical outlook.

Sure there is. If you save the one person because you like him/her better than the other ten people, you're making an "evil" solution. If you're saving the ten people because ten lives are worth more than one from a moral standpoint, you're making a "good" solution.


I don't think anyone is saying that "greater good" means good. If it did, then it would just be the "good" with no reason to mention the "greater". Greater good is more used as the reason that something is not evil, so neutral.

Grand Lodge

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Scud422 wrote:
I've always gone with ruling that 'Good' is Selfless or Altruistic and that 'Evil' is Selfish and those alignments have no other requirements.

I'm inclined to agree with this. Anything else is more or less neutral.


Some Other Guy wrote:
Claxon wrote:
There is no "good solution" in the trolley problem. Though there are "optimized solutions" based on your philosophical outlook.
Sure there is. If you save the one person because you like him/her better than the other ten people, you're making an "evil" solution. If you're saving the ten people because ten lives are worth more than one from a moral standpoint, you're making a "good" solution.

That depends on your moral philosophy, and revolves around adjudicating the value of one individual versus another. There is no intrinsically good solution.

For instance I agree that choosing the 1 over the 10 because you like the 1 is evil. But choosing the 10 over the 1 requires that you determine that the 10 lives are somehow worth more than the 1. And upon what grounds do you determine that this is actually the case?

For instance, if the one individual is someone who you know will contribute more to society than those 10 individuals combined how do you choose? What if that person is also a family member?

There are an incredible number of possible variations of this problem.

Grand Lodge

Claxon wrote:
For instance, if the one individual is someone who you know will contribute more to society than those 10 individuals combined how do you choose? What is that person is also a family member?

That's an exception and we can constantly add different variables to change the morality of a choice and drag this on indefinitely.

Regardless, I find all of this arbitrary if the actions are judged by deities that would not care about the "value" of an individual.


Some Other Guy wrote:
Claxon wrote:
For instance, if the one individual is someone who you know will contribute more to society than those 10 individuals combined how do you choose? What is that person is also a family member?
That's an exception and we can constantly add different variables to change the morality of a choice and drag this on indefinitely.

That is actually the entire point of the Trolley Problem as a philosophical discussion.


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You cannot "fall" from evil. As long as the willingness exists to commit evil acts, you can be as nice as you want. Evil isn't about a compulsion to screw people over constantly—it's just about a capacity, if the circumstances are right. You could make a Lawful Evil knight who behaves as Lawful Good in every single way, except where tengus are involved, because it turns out she hates tengus more than anything and murders them at first glance (even the hatchlings!). Until a tengu shows up, though, she will come across as the nicest, most altruistic person you've ever met. Lawful Evil.


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Aelryinth wrote:


Note that as soon as you start invoking the 'greater good' you are probably talking Law, not Goodness.

I think this is one of the more insightful statements about alignment I've seen in a very long time.

The other thing I'd like to point out --- which ties in to all the bogus "trolley problem" questions as well -- is that, as the taxi driver pointed out when I asked him to take me to the best hotel in town, it's possible to be "better," or even "the best," without actually being any good.

Similarly, just because a choice is the greater good doesn't make it actually Good. As with Sophie's Choice, there are indeed contrived situations where no option given is good, and you are still doing evil by making any choice.

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