For the Greater Good alignment


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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I've always thought the oft-used villain ultimatum "If you don't do what I say, I'll kill this person/these people, and it will be your fault!" is weird. No, it wouldn't be my fault; it would be solely your fault, Bad Guy.


BackHandOfFate wrote:
Ventnor wrote:

Evil can never be not-evil. That to me is the problematic part of all this. That one little absolute statement. It does not require you to think, or question. It is evil, so condemn it. This act is good, so don't think about it.

People who think in black-and-white never think about morality, because why would they have to? Evil is evil, and good is good. Just do these things, and don't do those things. Oh, those people who do those things? They do them because they are evil.

It is the product of our animal brains, the part of use that is most brutish and nasty and clanlike. They are not like us, therefore they are evil. It is a philosophy that is responsible for so much evil in the world that I cannot help but see it as evil myself.

Ventnor, I think you are still missing the multiple posts addressing that portion of your argument. You need to separate the act from the person. Multiple times it has been stated that good people can do evil things and that evil people can do good things.

You act as if we don't have any reason behind why we view an act as evil and instead paint opposing viewpoints as blind and unthinking when it is actually you who are forcing oversimplication into a complex topic. For someone who accuses others of being 'moral absolutists' you sure are making a lot of rigid assumptions about the way other people think.

Perhaps I am. All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is.

They're not very pleasant people.


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Didn't read whole thing but in case someone didn't mention it it sounds Similar to the Trolley problem argument (google) i believe locke john Stuart Mill and Kant all had a interesting view on it and also these views illustrate the complexity and variety of the issue.

To me the idea that doing what is right no matter the consequences (say i won't kill that one person to save many because murder is wrong always wrong every time etc. ) is lawful good

while killing 5 people to save 100 is more on the chaotic good side.

The other part to it is intent I feel intent is terribly important in the matter.


Ventnor wrote:
BackHandOfFate wrote:
Ventnor wrote:

Evil can never be not-evil. That to me is the problematic part of all this. That one little absolute statement. It does not require you to think, or question. It is evil, so condemn it. This act is good, so don't think about it.

People who think in black-and-white never think about morality, because why would they have to? Evil is evil, and good is good. Just do these things, and don't do those things. Oh, those people who do those things? They do them because they are evil.

It is the product of our animal brains, the part of use that is most brutish and nasty and clanlike. They are not like us, therefore they are evil. It is a philosophy that is responsible for so much evil in the world that I cannot help but see it as evil myself.

Ventnor, I think you are still missing the multiple posts addressing that portion of your argument. You need to separate the act from the person. Multiple times it has been stated that good people can do evil things and that evil people can do good things.

You act as if we don't have any reason behind why we view an act as evil and instead paint opposing viewpoints as blind and unthinking when it is actually you who are forcing oversimplication into a complex topic. For someone who accuses others of being 'moral absolutists' you sure are making a lot of rigid assumptions about the way other people think.

Perhaps I am. All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is.

They're not very pleasant people.

Being sure whats good and what is evil doesn't mean you don't think about morality, it doesn't mean you are pushy and judgemental and it doesn't mean you're out to make the world into your ideal place. My last character was a black and white LG guy. "What youre doing is wrong but I won't decide for you" was his usual approach -except for torturing confession type cases.

The Exchange

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Ventnor wrote:
,,,All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is. They're not very pleasant people.

Well, yes. Black-and-white morality has a number of fallacies that can lead devotees into fanaticism, just as shades-of-gray morality has flaws that can lead its advocates into complete moral relativism. It usually doesn't happen, since most people have some measure of empathy and wisdom and are not driven by unmodified logic or dogma.

Wrap it up, guys, we need this space to complain about how unbalanced Rule or Class X is.


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Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Louis Lyons wrote:
The only thing that will stop this is if peace and stability is returned to the land. But in order to do that, one of the two royal family's entire bloodline must be wiped out, down to the last crying infant in their crib, so that no one can claim a legitimate right to the throne.
Solution: Kill all of the adults who have been pushing the war and are not innocents, and have all of the women who were not involved directly married off to the winner's allies and all of the children adopted by other families, therefore no longer being a member of the potential royal line. (This solution was actually used historically. Often the winning family would even adopt the kids themselves, making sure that they weren't killed, but pushed into lesser roles of responsibility within the house.)

I think he's referencing both Tywin Lannister's sack of King's Landing and the Red Wedding.

Liberty's Edge

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Persephone Zahariou wrote:

Hello, we just finished Rise of The Runelords and this is the dialog between an NPC Cleric of Erastil and PC Swashbuckler.

Cleric: "You are going to do everything to protect your people, that's not a suggestion. That's a fact, I just want to say that you should never ever forget that your final goal, is to protect people. It's easy for one to loose himself"
Swashbuckler: "What exactly defines everything? What is the limit in what we do?"
Cleric: "I... I really do not think there is one. As long as it is to keep your people safe I think you will do everything. Would you kill a whole family to save many many more? Yes you would. Now would you sleep at night? That's a very different question"
Swashbuckler: "Yes, I would. You are right. It's all about the people. We don't matter if we cant protect them. And yes... I could sleep at night."

After reading this I asked the DM if he's switching both of them to neutral. DM believes they are doing the right thing. You should kill an innocent family, to save a many more innocent families.

I as a player and my LG Cleric of Erastil disagree. My cleric is keeping his family away from both of them just in case they get ideas :P

So what alignment(s) would that thinking falls in, in your opinion?

Edit: To avoid any misunderstanding. Campaign is over. We were having philosophical discussion with DM and other players on the matter. I suggested I'd post on the message boards so we see what others think. They liked the idea.

In my opinion, the Good/Neutral/Evil axis is defined by WHY you make decisions and the Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic axis is defined by HOW you make decisions.

A good character has a tendency to think of others before themselves. An evil character is selfish in nature and/or looks to create general destruction. A neutral character has no tendency either way.

A lawful character follows some sort of code and/or is bound by order. A chaotic character values the freedom to make their own decisions and/or detests being told what to do. A neutral character has no tendency either way.

Analyzing the OP's question:

I believe that any Good fits the characters due to the fact that their reasoning behind what they do is to protect other people. It seems to me that the "need to protect the people" is not a one time instance in this case, but an innate drive or need for these characters. Evidence of this is supported by the phrases "It's all about the people. We don't matter if we can protect them" and "you should never forget that your final goal is to protect the people". They are putting others before themselves. If this was a one time thing and/or the characters did not always exhibit this need, I would argue maybe a more neutral alignment.

On the other axis, it is a bit trickier because you have to analyze HOW the characters go about their decision-making. I would argue that either Neutral or Chaotic would work. A lawful character has some sort of code and is bound by order. To a lawful character "the means matter", or in other words, "the way in which you do things matter". The action they are proposing does not take in to account what society thinks is right or what some universal law thinks is right, but what they themselves define as right in this particular circumstance. This is a Chaotic action. This is evidenced by the lines "I don't think there is one. As long as it will keep your people safe you will do everything" in response to the question "what is the limit in what we do". Now, if the character is striving to make their own decisions based on their own moral judgement in everything they do, then I would argue Chaotic. If this seems to be a special instance where that is the logic, I would argue Neutral. I don't think there is enough evidence to say either way how the characters go about making their decisions in everyday life, but I can take a stab at it. It seems to me that the character's are kind of questioning whether there might be some sort of order or not to what they do, as evidenced by the line "what is the limit to what we do". This hints to me that their need to be free of law and order and make their own decisions are not as overwhelming, and that they would be ok with the idea of following law and order in other circumstances. So I would lean toward Neutral.

So to sum it up, I believe the characters to be Neutral Good, although I believe Chaotic Good works as well, depending on how string their urge is to "be free of rules" and "follow their own whims".


Ventnor wrote:


But that's my problem. You've defined killing an innocent as an evil act. What about killing in that circumstance makes it suddenly taboo, while killing under other circumstances okay? Killing is clearly a grey act, since doing it in some circumstances is okay, while doing it in other circumstances is evil. By adding that qualifier to the act of killing, you introduce shades of grey into a black-and-white system. Is killing evil, or is it good? You just can't that...

Killing isn't a gray act.

Killing isn't an act at all. Killing is a verb. Killing what? It requires more than just the word killing.

Killing in self defense
Killing an innocent
Killing in defense of another

Those are all different acts. It isn't shades of gray.

You're desperate to attempt to prove us wrong but your arguments are breaking down. It is okay to simply admit that you didn't understand that white and black were far more complex than you realized.


Ventnor wrote:

Perhaps I am. All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is.

They're not very pleasant people.

I have never found them unpleasant. The caveat being that the people are, for lack of a better term, correct.

Most people who would cause problems are those that have weird views on what good and evil are.

If your moral compass is accurate though there is generally nothing unpleasant about black and white morality.

Yes it can lead to bad places but shades of gray also can lead to moral relativism which is much worse.

Edit: It is also hilarious when a relativist villain faces a black and white hero and tries to present him with complex moral conundrums. The B&W gives answers instantly, without hesitation, and is not conflicted at all... Usually the relativist has a meltdown.

Sovereign Court

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Agrippa01 wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Louis Lyons wrote:
The only thing that will stop this is if peace and stability is returned to the land. But in order to do that, one of the two royal family's entire bloodline must be wiped out, down to the last crying infant in their crib, so that no one can claim a legitimate right to the throne.
Solution: Kill all of the adults who have been pushing the war and are not innocents, and have all of the women who were not involved directly married off to the winner's allies and all of the children adopted by other families, therefore no longer being a member of the potential royal line. (This solution was actually used historically. Often the winning family would even adopt the kids themselves, making sure that they weren't killed, but pushed into lesser roles of responsibility within the house.)
I think he's referencing both Tywin Lannister's sack of King's Landing and the Red Wedding.

Right - and those were both (I thought pretty obviously) evil acts.


HWalsh wrote:

Killing isn't a gray act.

Killing isn't an act at all. Killing is a verb. Killing what? It requires more than just the word killing.

Killing in self defense
Killing an innocent
Killing in defense of another

Those are all different acts.

Actual alignment rules in the Core Rulebook wrote:
Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others.


HWalsh wrote:

It's simply the effect of being able to see in terms of black and white. Most people, especially villains, can't do that.

You've never had toddlers, I see:)

Sovereign Court

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137ben wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Killing isn't a gray act.

Killing isn't an act at all. Killing is a verb. Killing what? It requires more than just the word killing.

Killing in self defense
Killing an innocent
Killing in defense of another

Those are all different acts.

Actual alignment rules in the Core Rulebook wrote:
Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others.

Those aren't contradictory.

"Evil implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others."

It takes all 3 to qualify. If it only took one, "and" would be replaced with "or".

Liberty's Edge

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J4RH34D wrote:

I just want to point out that is a famous moral dilemma discussed for years. The tram problem.

The tram problem goes as follows: there is a tram traveling down a track towards a fork. One side of the fork has multiple people tied to it. The other side has one. The tram will hit the many people unless you pull a level to send it down the other fork.
The same situation could apply to people walking across the forks. Not tied down. So no third party has any blame.

There are also defined moral reasons to explain how people have been arguing this. I can't for the life of me remember the names. One says that any action or inaction is wrong as it results in death. Utilitarian morals I believe they are called, state that inaction is the wrong choice as action to shift the cart protects more human life.

I believe that when all other options are exhausted, one must approximate to the best of their ability which choice is the objectively better. Inaction or action.

Inaction in this matter might be horrible. But it is just that. Inaction. You are not responsible for someone's death if you did not put the events in motion that led to that death. You are not the killer if you do not jump in front of the bullet. On the other hand, one must consider both the moral and possibly the legal ramifications of such an action. You see, intentionally changing the tracks when you have considered the consequences and are absolutely sure that doing so will lead to someone's death (i.e., premeditation upon the action) has a very specific word attached to it. It is known as "Murder."

Of course, there are justifications for knowingly taking action that lead to someone's death, including self-defense and defense of the lives of others. But that is only a defense if the person being killed is the aggressor, not if they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

So here is the REAL question for any "Greater Good" advocate: Would you, in real life, or would your character in the game, after having killed an innocent person or group of innocents for the net "greater good" be willing to turn yourself over the authorities and face your punishment for having killed those people? After having made the relatively easy decision to sacrifice others, will you stand by your principles and make the far more difficult decision to sacrifice yourself?

J4RH34D wrote:
In this case, slaughtering the family is a net good.

A net good. Wonderful. But it is still the murder of an innocent family of men women and children that has done no wrong to warrant such an end. Perhaps you can justify it from a philosophical standpoint and debates with net goods versus net evil. Try justifying it to a Court of Law and a jury of your peers.

And turning to the personal for a moment: would you accept such justifications if it were your family who was on the tracks or up for being slaughtered for the supposed greater good?

J4RH34D wrote:
While inaction is an objectively evil act.

Inaction is quite literally not an "act."

J4RH34D wrote:
It is not good to simply not kill anyone. It is evil to allow people to die when you had an option to save them where net life is saved

And what do you tell the families of those people you murdered? "The deaths of your mother/father/brother/sisters/sons/daughters were necessary in order to prevent more people from dying. I could not have acted in any other way other than to kill those you loved and cherished in order to maintain my moral principles."? I mean, perhaps that is what you/your character would say. Just as long as you are okay with being led to the gallows or into a prison cell for the rest of your life afterwards.


HWalsh wrote:
Ventnor wrote:

Perhaps I am. All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is.

They're not very pleasant people.

I have never found them unpleasant. The caveat being that the people are, for lack of a better term, correct.

Most people who would cause problems are those that have weird views on what good and evil are.

If your moral compass is accurate though there is generally nothing unpleasant about black and white morality.

Yes it can lead to bad places but shades of gray also can lead to moral relativism which is much worse.

Edit: It is also hilarious when a relativist villain faces a black and white hero and tries to present him with complex moral conundrums. The B&W gives answers instantly, without hesitation, and is not conflicted at all... Usually the relativist has a meltdown.

It's that caveat that's the sticking point for me. I find most often that people who believe they are, for lack of a better term, correct are the people most likely to have weird views on what good and evil are.

The sticking point for me is when people are so sure that their moral compass is accurate that they never think to question it.

Sovereign Court

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Ventnor wrote:


The sticking point for me is when people are so sure that their moral compass is accurate that they never think to question it.

I've gotta say, even as a believer in universal morality myself (rather than relative morality), some of those people get on my nerves too. Just because I believe that universal morality exists doesn't mean that I'm arrogant enough to think I have a perfect knowledge of it.


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Louis Lyons wrote:
So here is the REAL question for any "Greater Good" advocate: Would you, in real life, or would your character in the game, after having killed an innocent person or group of innocents for the net "greater good" be willing to turn yourself over the authorities and face your punishment for having killed those people? After having made the relatively easy decision to sacrifice others, will you stand by your principles and make the far more difficult decision to sacrifice yourself?

Of course.

This is never really in question for me.

The point isn't "Am I willing to sacrifice myself?" - because of course I am - if I can't save people without sacrifice, the first person I'd sacrifice is the evil people (unless I'd have some idea that they'd have a possibility of repentance, then it'd be onto number two which is...), then myself, and only then would anyone else come into the picture. That's the nature of difficult choice.

Here's the thing as alluded to above, however: does turning yourself in necessarily happen right away? No.

It may well. If there is no pressing matter, it probably should happen right away.

In a real world, and in PF-worlds, a contrived situation like this, with no way out, are likely rare (outside of hostage situations, in which case, acquiescing is always bad because other bad things come as a result of that, but that's not really what we -or at least I - am attempting to advocate at any given time).

Here's the deal: in our world, and in PF-world, if a situation had come up, generally speaking, probably not. It's prrrrrrrrrrooooooooooooobably bad and should feel bad.

In these kinds of seemingly exceedingly contrived circumstances, however, discussion would need to be had (if possible). Survival, however, is a powerful impulse. I could grandstand and say, "I would do..." and tell you all sorts of things, but in the end of the day, living something is totally different from speaking it. I'd like to think I'd do the right thing - whatever that is, and, generally speaking, that's not killing other people, whenever possible (and not hurting them, either).

But that doesn't mean that killing or hurting things is always bad. It's a tool of survival. And respecting dignity means also respecting other creatures' choices... and the consequences thereof: and that sometimes means respecting that the other creature has enough sense to have moral agency, and thus repudiating them on those grounds (or, instead, understanding that they do not have moral agency, and terminating them on the ground that they will harm those who do).

Humorously, whether this is recognized or not, such actions are, in fact, for the greater good.

Buuuu~uuut, as absolutely no one has commented on it, I'm going to bring up Mouse Guard again:

The Guard's Oath says:

"We as the guard offer all that we are to protect the sanctity of our species, the freedom of our kin, and the honor of our ancestors. With knowledge, sword, and shield, we do these deeds, never putting a lone mouse above the needs of all, or the desire of self above another. We strive for no less than to serve the greatest good."

To be clear: these people, at no particular compensation for themselves, take it upon themselves at great personal risk and often cost in temporary and permanent injury and even life to serve other independent cities by clearing out monsters, ensuring safe-passages between cities for trade, delivering mail, scouting, rescuing lost or kidnapped, respecting all local independent authority (so long as the local people are also respected), escort and protect merchants and travelers and researchers and scholars of all stripes. These are the people who do so at no charge and for no profit. They do so purely because they love their people and want their people to have a chance to prosper and not be destroyed by predation from poisonous serpents and wolves or cruel and malevolent weasel-tyrants who enslave them. That is who take this oath and what that oath means. That is the meaning of "the greatest good" - and a fine example of "lawful good" in action.


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Also: please don't conflate or misunderstand the two arguments I make above.

Argument 1: I am not claiming that it is "good" to kill innocent people, merely that, in conversational ethics, it can be reasonable to believe you can, in the proper circumstances, while maintaining a good alignment, with good intent.

Argument 2: I am pointing out that, though generally associated with abhorrent and vile groups and this villainized (and understandably so) the actual concept of "the greater good" is neither inherently villainous nor a genuinely accurate predictor of evil. Using heiristics it tends to line up, as villains like to paint themselves as saints - but it's a tool that villains use to paint themselves as saints, because there is some inherent value in the concept. It's just been soiled by a long parade of evil people who find it useful as a persuasive tool. It's like crying wolf. Crying wolf is a very effective communication tool that means, "hey, there is a wolf nearby and you people need to hurry out, get your weapons, and kill it" - but use it too often for the wrong reason, and it loses its impact/gets conflated with the wrong thing, despite there being real value in the core concept the actual wording represents.


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Here's a sample question that actually works pretty well for this thread.

There is a game. Abbreviation "LiS" for now.

There's a Game Theory thing on it.

What follows below are major friggin' spoilers.

You've been warned, if you care about that sort of thing.

Really Big Spoilers:

So at the end, you find out that by using your time-be ding powers to save your friend's life, you pretty much damned an entire town.

Your choice is to let them all die or let her die.

Which do you choose?

A: Your best friend, the lying, thieving, selfish, demanding character who literally gets herself killed multiple times through her own stupidity and/or arrogance (or her own actual death-wish, in one case) - sometimes in pursuit of a noble goal (Justice for murder), sometimes taking the time to be a terrible person along the way (such as stealing from be handicapped).

B: a town full of people, many (perhaps most all) of whom are terrible - but some of whom are terrible because they are sick, some because they are just jerks, some are just as terrible in the same or different ways as your best friend (with good or better qualities that sometimes offset that) - as well as a large number of innocent and/or helpful and kind people or people who live good or full lives (though some of whom either intentionally or subconsciously turn a blind eye toward some or all of the terrible). There are several people who are much worse, but you have ensured that their life as they knew it and freedom have ended.

So which do you choose? A or B?

And bear in mind: this is not a passive choice: it's an active one. You actively have everyone in the game practically begging you to do B (implicitly; only one person knows you have any direct influence over it, and she speaks for the vast majority, though several would be justly appalled at the cost).

Yet anti-greater-good arguments seem to indicate that it's the "lazy" choice (it is not)* or that it is evil (it is also not)*.

Each requires an introspective understanding of both passive and active morality on the part of the player to make the correct choice: the player must "do" a thing and then "not do" another thing in order to fulfill the game's choice, there. It's pretty heart wrenching and powerful. What is the moral choice?

- Actively do something that puts you in a situation where you just have to wait to let a person die.
- Actively do something that puts you in a position where you just have to wait to let a lot of people die.

No "one" set this up: it just kind of worked out this way. Wat do?

* Neither are lazy or immoral as both are hard and seeking to save lives, though A is definitively a very, very foolish one given your limited information-set; and it can skew towards selfish, as it can be taken to focus on your** personal desires rather than the those of the most people.
** Well, the personal desires of the protagonist. This does not make it inherently immoral. And <snipped for spoiler>.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Ventnor wrote:


The sticking point for me is when people are so sure that their moral compass is accurate that they never think to question it.
I've gotta say, even as a believer in universal morality myself (rather than relative morality), some of those people get on my nerves too. Just because I believe that universal morality exists doesn't mean that I'm arrogant enough to think I have a perfect knowledge of it.

And, forgive me for getting personal, but you seem like a nice and friendly person who is easy to have a discussion with.

Earlier on this thread, Ventnor said
Ventnor said earlier on this page that
Ventnor wrote:

Perhaps I am. All I can say is that I've known people who subscribe to viewpoints like that, people who are sure about what good is and what evil is.

They're not very pleasant people.

And while Ventnor didn't say anything about people who aren't as certain about what they consider good and evil, I believe the converse is at least partially true. You've certainly supported that belief of mine by being really pleasant on the forums.

For an example of the complete opposite extreme, consider Fred Phelps. Back when he was alive, Phelps was so confident in his idea of what was Good and Evil. He was also, IMO, a complete @#$%hole to other people.
He was also a good example of the other phenomenon Ventnor described up-thread:

Ventnor wrote:
It's that caveat that's the sticking point for me. I find most often that people who believe they are, for lack of a better term, correct are the people most likely to have weird views on what good and evil are.

Putting aside the issue he is most famous for talking about, Phelps is known to have said "thank God for 9/11." Which is a view most on this thread would probably find...well, quite a lot worse than "weird."

...and since I've already brought up Fred Phelps, I might as well go all the way and mention Hitler. Hitler was also very certain in his beliefs. And he also fits Ventnor's descriptions as "not a pleasant person" and having "weird [or worse] views on what good an evil are."

So in case you're keeping score, the current score is:
Charon's Little Helper: Nice, friendly person
Fred Phelps: Not a nice person
Adolph Hitler: Not a nice person

And...I may well have wildly misinterpreted what either you or Ventnor meant. But I'm pretty sure I got the scoreboard correct, so at least I got something right today.


One thing to keep in mind to is evil and good are not only a personal choice but also the society one lives in determines them as well imagine a society of immortals where murder is impossible then in that society murder isn't even a crime. or more relate-able cannibals in there society there all down with that but other society consider cannibalism an evil act.


I have a stick, somewhere.

I'll use it for... something, not sure what yet.

The point is, the turtle always wins.


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TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN?


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KahnyaGnorc wrote:
I've always thought the oft-used villain ultimatum "If you don't do what I say, I'll kill this person/these people, and it will be your fault!" is weird. No, it wouldn't be my fault; it would be solely your fault, Bad Guy.

Goodness and fault are two different things; and events can have more than one culpably party. Sure the guy with the knife to the throat is most culpable and clearly to blame for the situation. That doesn't vitiate the responsibility of a third-party actor choosing between options. The one that leads to the best outcome for the most people is a completely valid moral option; and, it is arguable, that not acting because of your own personal code (and because someone else created the situation) is not itself immoral when the outcome for most would be harmful.

Utility is a type of good. Normative rules are also a type of good. Both are perfectly valid; this isn't a rules call, judgments about morality should be necessarily be collaborative. Anything less is a bit offensive and injurious to the game.


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Tacticslion wrote:

Here's a sample question that actually works pretty well for this thread.

There is a game. Abbreviation "LiS" for now.

There's a Game Theory thing on it.

What follows below are major friggin' spoilers.

You've been warned, if you care about that sort of thing.

** spoiler omitted **

So which do you choose? A or B?

And bear in mind: this is not a passive choice: it's an active one. You actively have everyone in the game practically begging you to do B (implicitly; only one person knows you have any direct influence over it, and she speaks for the vast majority, though several would be justly appalled at the cost).

Yet anti-greater-good arguments seem to indicate that it's the "lazy" choice (it is not)* or that it is evil (it is also not)*.

Each requires an...

The problem with the scenario as you outlined is that we don't have enough information with which to have proper input. In real life I am a game designer. That is what I do (mostly small scale indie stuff) so I am well aware of the limitations of a narrative told through a mostly linear medium.

It is what is known as a "false dilemma" scenario. You can only choose A or B. You aren't allowed to choose option C despite there, almost assuredly, being some kind of viable option C because the designers didn't want there to be an option C.

The false dilemma exists in a lot of different games.

Here is one, "Marvel's Ultimate Alliance" for the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and recently PS4, PC, and Xbox One.

You have been warned.:
In Mephisto's realm you come across two cages. One contains Jean Grey one contains Nightcrawler. Conveniently Nightcrawler has lost his powers. You can only open one cage. The cage you didn't open falls into lava below.

This is a false dilemma.

Jean should be able to levitate her own cage to save herself. You should be able to split your team up and open both cages simultaneously to save both. You should be able to have strong enough people who can simply hold the cage that contains a hero and move it to safety. You should be able to... Well... Save both of them.

You simply can't because the designers wanted to force a choice that felt like a loss that was inevitably illogical.

I haven't played Life is Strange, so I can't say with 100% certainty that I can't figure out some way to save all parties. I bet there is a logical way to do it though. I just bet the programmers didn't add it to the game.

LiS Spoiler:
Okay, having read a very detailed plot synopsis with the VERY STUPID ending plot twist I can, indeed, say that the ending is a false dilemma. It makes no sense. Possessing time travel powers creates a storm. That had to be specifically set up. That isn't a logical outcome. Not only is it not a logical outcome but allowing Chloe to die doesn't explain why the storm is stopped because you have already used the time travel powers in order to stop yourself from using the time travel powers.

Basically...

If the only way a situation can happen is if there is ridiculous amounts of randomized elements that are out of your control and aren't logically linked then it isn't a fair scenario. It isn't even a well written scenario.

That is the problem with almost all "lesser of two evils" scenarios. You have to shoehorn things in so tightly to remove any alternative solution that it becomes silly.

Its like the whole, "Train is heading toward someone who is on the track. You are near the switch. If you pull the switch the train goes into a ravine but misses the person. If you don't then the person on the tracks dies." Scenario.

It winds up being silly when the following happens:

"I shout to the person on the tracks to move!"
"Oh, uh, they are, uh, too far to hear you."
"Wait, there is a train coming, right? Can't they hear the train?"
"Uh... No... They are, uh... Deaf."
"Okay? Can they see the train coming?"
"No, they are, uh facing away from the train."
"They can't feel the vibrations on the track?"
"Nope."
"Wait... Why is a deaf person walking along a railroad track near a ravine without bothering to at least look at the direction the train is coming in?"
"I don't know. They just are."
"Okay, well why doesn't the train stop?"
"What?"
"I mean, they see someone on the tracks, trains have breaks. They can totally stop. In real life that is what happens usually."
"Well they, uh... They... They can't see the person!"
"What? Why not?"
"Because, it is dark."
"Wait, does the train not have a light on the front of it?"
"I guess not."
"Hold on... If it is so dark that the train can't see the deaf person walking with their back toward the train... How can I see this going on?"
"... Just answer the question!"


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In at least one version the train scenario that I've heard, the person has their foot stuck on the tracks. They know the train is coming. They can hear you (well, they probably can't since oncoming trains can be pretty loud). They just can't do anything about it. Also, the engineer in the train does see the stuck person. They have thrown the brakes. The train is traveling so fast that it will not stop in time before it hits the person stuck on the tracks. It does take a train moving at full speed some time and distance to slow down, after all.

You're on a bridge overlooking this scene. Everyone involved is doing their best to avert this disaster, but it's going to happen in a matter of seconds. You can choose what will happen, since the lever to divert the train into certain doom is right next to you.

What do you do?

The Exchange

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You look around to see who turned on the Infinite Improbability Drive.


It was you. You monster.

Grand Lodge

Never accept a boolean/binary choice. If you're "greater good" or whatever your prerogative is "I will save everyone".

If a train running down a track and is about to hit 3 people buy you can divert the train onto another track with 1 person would you divert the train?

The correct answer is you would strength check to bend the train away from both tracks.


That, of course, would leave you dead. You're not a fantasy hero in this situation. You can't bend steel with your bare hands. And of course, even if you were, bringing the train to a sudden stop would likely result in a lot of harm to the people inside of the train as they're thrown violently forward from the momentum.

You're right that there are usually more than two choices in most situations. But sometimes, all of the choices are bad.


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"Take the Third Option" is one name for the narrative device that says when faced with a choice between terrible option A and extremely terrible option B the hero realizes he can do C and save everyone.

This has always struck me as a form of moral cowardice rather than strength. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, and the insistence that there is always a good answer that compromises nothing is to shrink away from your responsibility to make a choice and stand by it.

Plenty of positions of real significance require you to face situations without easy answers, but it is vital you face them honestly. Ex. A police officer has to decide if a suspect is reaching for a gun or a phone. Wait too long and you end up with dead officers. Don't wait long enough and you end up killing unarmed people. "I will use my magic marksmanship to shoot the object out of his hand" isn't a real answer, it's an evasion of the real moral work that needs doing.

I work in the justice system and deal with criminals, punishment, redemption, forgiveness, all that stuff. Will the drunk before me turn his life around if he's given help or will he kill someone in a wreck if he's not separated from the community? I don't know, but I need to make the call and live with it all the same.

Sure the trolley problem is contrived, but "I'll jump in front of the trolley and stop it with my mighty muscles" is to deliberately miss the point.

If you want to play a morally simple game where there is always a third option that preserves everyone then you can contrive your stories to fit that, but I don't have much sympathy for it in the real world.


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And the point is... if you have done something like that... then you accept it. You turn yourself in. You suffer, and you know why you suffer. AND YOU DON'T EVEN TRY TO RATIONALIZE IT. Or else you do, claiming that "I did the morally right thing, the people on the other track were more in number blah blah blah blah blah blah blah greater good blah blah blah blah every good person would do the same blah blah blah blah!!!!" (monologuing is a time honoured tradition with people like you) and you're evil. Congratulations.


Jader7777 wrote:

Never accept a boolean/binary choice. If you're "greater good" or whatever your prerogative is "I will save everyone".

If a train running down a track and is about to hit 3 people buy you can divert the train onto another track with 1 person would you divert the train?

The correct answer is you would strength check to bend the train away from both tracks.

I like it always go with the superman option (when your superman anyways)


Sissyl wrote:
And the point is... if you have done something like that... then you accept it. You turn yourself in. You suffer, and you know why you suffer. AND YOU DON'T EVEN TRY TO RATIONALIZE IT. Or else you do, claiming that "I did the morally right thing, the people on the other track were more in number blah blah blah blah blah blah blah greater good blah blah blah blah every good person would do the same blah blah blah blah!!!!" (monologuing is a time honoured tradition with people like you) and you're evil. Congratulations.

now think about the american justice system if you do nothing you won't be prosecuted right? but if you turn the track to kill the guy then you will be tried correct? (of course you can still apply to a higher standing and say those consequences to myself are worth it to save those life's and you can go higher but you get the idea.)

or is that getting lawful into the G/E axis


LuniasM wrote:
What about a killer who claims to be purifying the world of evil influences and does so by murdering criminals and their families to prevent their "corruption" from spreading? Decidedly evil, despite their claims to the contrary.

I believe you just described the average course of action most paladins follow against monsters and savage humanoids in general


D@rK-SePHiRoTH- wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
What about a killer who claims to be purifying the world of evil influences and does so by murdering criminals and their families to prevent their "corruption" from spreading? Decidedly evil, despite their claims to the contrary.
I believe you just described the average course of action most paladins follow against monsters and savage humanoids in general

ah see now were talking about intent now if you think about it we don't give that person the same punishment now do we we put him in a insane asylum generally (with some exceptions) while someone stable killing someone for some less fantasied reason goes to jail or worse... so there is a difference in there somewhere right?


Vidmaster7 wrote:
D@rK-SePHiRoTH- wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
What about a killer who claims to be purifying the world of evil influences and does so by murdering criminals and their families to prevent their "corruption" from spreading? Decidedly evil, despite their claims to the contrary.
I believe you just described the average course of action most paladins follow against monsters and savage humanoids in general
ah see now were talking about intent now if you think about it we don't give that person the same punishment now do we we put him in a insane asylum generally (with some exceptions) while someone stable killing someone for some less fantasied reason goes to jail or worse... so there is a difference in there somewhere right?

The difference is not relevant.

i.e.
if "all cars must be destroyed" is true,
You cannot save your car by saying:
"but my car is red, not green. it is different!"

It was never said that olny green cars must be destroyed.
Yes, green and red cars are different, but this difference is not relevant, as they are both cars, and thus they both fall under the definition of what "must be destroyed"

Now,

If (as stated by the person I quoted)
killing people that engage in criminal behavior
to cleanse the world
Is evil

then
All paladins are evil


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Ring_of_Gyges wrote:

"Take the Third Option" is one name for the narrative device that says when faced with a choice between terrible option A and extremely terrible option B the hero realizes he can do C and save everyone.

This has always struck me as a form of moral cowardice rather than strength. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions, and the insistence that there is always a good answer that compromises nothing is to shrink away from your responsibility to make a choice and stand by it.

Oh yes "moral cowardice". In the tram dilemma.

Except over the years, it has been seen that the tram dilemma is not truly a dilemma. The oft repeated number, 90% of all people who were tested with this scenario picked lives of many over the one. Because that is an easy call to make when it is all mind games. Rephrase the scenario to "Do you wish to pick 1 or 3? Bigger is better" and it is easy to be "morally courageous".

The point of the thread was severely misdirected by bringing the tram to this. Alignment does not give a toss about human morality, because it ascends it. Which is why mortals behave like mortals and we are fine with outsiders coming from alignment planes acting in extreme ways and we are perfectly cool with that.

And handled badly, moral dilemmas are just immersion-killers for any session because it is not witty to force one in and then "punish" the party possible for "failing it". WHICH I HAVE SEEN DONE!


On an absolutist form of morality yes but on a relativists from then no seeing as how there are several real world systems that make a exception for mentally disturbed patients then logic dictates that label makes a difference.

your talking about a morale absolutist view in that case all murder of sentient life is evil therefore all dnd characters (with the exception of maybe a very few closet cases) are evil (i'm going to call this the murder hobo example.) if intent doesn't matter lets say a demon goes back to save Hitler from some time traveling assassin the demons intent is to save Hitlers life to keep all the horror and evil he created around but his actions are saving a sentient beings life which is a good act so intent is very important which is why I feel a morale absolutist view has flaws but then so does the other one but its not as rigid.

now i think that was kind of what you were arguing against is a morale absolutists standpoint I assume. then all paladins are evil is a poke at the flaw and not an actual literal assumption. so in that case i think we agree.

one thing i tell players to is human are human they make mistakes a good person occasionally does bad things and vice versa at the end of the day i expect more act towards their alignment then away from it (with the exception of paladin anti paladin and maybe clerics but they have a definite divine pull towards there alignment) now outsiders however ive always considered exactly there alignment all action need to be coming from that direction cause there beings of that alignment a demon is going to do demony things etc. i think it has something to do with the whole non-binary nature of their soul and body.


HWalsh wrote:
Tacticslion wrote:

Here's a sample question that actually works pretty well for this thread.

There is a game. Abbreviation "LiS" for now.

There's a Game Theory thing on it.

What follows below are major friggin' spoilers.

You've been warned, if you care about that sort of thing.

** spoiler omitted **

So which do you choose? A or B?

And bear in mind: this is not a passive choice: it's an active one. You actively have everyone in the game practically begging you to do B (implicitly; only one person knows you have any direct influence over it, and she speaks for the vast majority, though several would be justly appalled at the cost).

Yet anti-greater-good arguments seem to indicate that it's the "lazy" choice (it is not)* or that it is evil (it is also not)*.

Each requires an...

The problem with the scenario as you outlined is that we don't have enough information with which to have proper input. In real life I am a game designer. That is what I do (mostly small scale indie stuff) so I am well aware of the limitations of a narrative told through a mostly linear medium.

It is what is known as a "false dilemma" scenario. You can only choose A or B. You aren't allowed to choose option C despite there, almost assuredly, being some kind of viable option C because the designers didn't want there to be an option C.

The false dilemma exists in a lot of different games.

Here is one, "Marvel's Ultimate Alliance" for the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, and recently PS4, PC, and Xbox One.

** spoiler omitted **...

"I reject your reality and substitute my own!" :)


On "LiS": I agree that it's a potentially weak plot element, it it is what it is, and I disagree that it's a false binary. I've come to the conclusion that many people don't understand the interface of that game (myself included, first time 'round), because it's alien to our gaming styles: the protagonist is an agent with a limited set of "in character" actions; we just get to prod her along the path as her impulse-control-guide/conscience (or whatever) and watch outcomes. Also; actually... no: the more I've pondered it, the more the final plot decision makes sense (well, "B" - "A" is still made with what seems to be an incredibly naive and almost foolish version of hope and "I'm sure it's gotta work 'cause why not?" attitude), as in the scnario you're in, you've utilized lots of "microtransactions" as it were: a little here, a little there, a little over there, and so on. That's what added up to the build up: each use within a given major "stream" adds up. Hence going back and undoing all of it undoes all of it. (I say this as not-a-fan. I don't particularly like that game or the characters in it. I do think there's more to it than many credit it for.)

False Binaries are false binaries - a taughtalogical fact. But in a case when you literally have only two cases (such as when you, say, have a programmer, who, do to having a powerful narrative reason and/or design/time/brain-space limitations cannot create additional options and thus within the confines of a game) have two options, what do you pick?

So far, a popular option seems to be, "That's unfair; this game sucks!" and leaving. Fair enough, sometimes, but certainly not a universal solution.


Tacticslion wrote:


So far, a popular option seems to be, "That's unfair; this game sucks!" and leaving. Fair enough, sometimes, but certainly not a universal solution.

The Wargames option.

"The only way to win, is not to play."

All I can tell you is, there always is an option C.

Even in the case of the police officer.

The suspect is going for something. You don't know what it is. Your gun is drawn. You can shoot and kill him, killing an innocent if he's not going for a weapon or you can wait and potentially be shot yourself if he is going for a weapon.

What do you do?

Well... Why do you have a gun drawn instead of a Taser? Are you within 20 feet? If so why haven't you closed to close range and restrained the suspect in hand to hand? Have you attempted to calmly talk the subject down?

If you have your gun drawn and you are in this situation the answer is, again, black or white.

You don't shoot.

Yes, you might get shot. You put on the badge and are hopefully wearing a vest. You're the one who failed to notice what was going on, you shouldn't shoot until you know.

Statistically you have a high survival chance if you wait. So you wait. If you're too scared to think straight and/or on too much adrenaline then you don't need to be an officer.

I know this because there are other countries that deal with the same threats without having the same outcome. Thus black and white. Don't act out of fear.


"I don't like the scenario we're talking about, so I'll talk about a different scenario."

HWalsh, believe it or not, I'm actually in agreement with you about a great many things in this thread. What I don't accept is that there is "always" a third option. Not because I lack hope, but because there simply isn't always a third option. The sanitized statement goes, "There are lies, dang lies, and statistics."

I am pointing out a specific scenario in which either A happens or B does.

You suggest the officer wait. The outcome? The same as A, actually. Even though protagonist is kinda stupid in the specifics of what she does in the A choice, it really doesn't matter if she just waits or she <spoilers> the <spoiler> as she does or whatever, in the end the same outcome is guaranteed: option A.
(In this case the "false binary" was likely put so that players felt a sense of weight and empathy to the protagonist and finality to the decision instead of; "huh - whoops" lending greater credence to the, "you are protagonist's impulse guidance not the protagonist" explanation.)

"I don't like this game and refuse to play." is a valid answer, but there are other cases where cosmic elements come into play where there can be no "winning" - why did the gods not destroy Rovagug? It would have been better! Instead it is imprisoned. Why do the forces of good permit Cthulu, Tarrasque, Starspawn, Aboleths, demons (and demon lords), and all the mythos creatures to go about their merry business? Who does Erastil blame for allowing Rovagug to slaughter other gods of Heaven? Should not Erastil be blamed for failed hunts by a starving family? Or just nature? Or none at all? When a paladin runs out of funds to feed starving orphans should they, too, starve to death, or should they feed themselves so that they may feed others? There are limited finances. Where do they go?
(Nitpicking "Paladins slay evil and take its stuff this get wealthy enough for all the orphans" and the moral implications that murder and robbery are okay if holy men do it, aside, please, as that's a rabbit hole - replace paladin with I corrupt and effectively considered non-corruptible saintly entity of your choice for purposes of this conversation.)

The point is this: good works are limited. Good can't do everything. "Hard" choices do have to be made and scarcity is a sucky, sucky thing that exists. We all have to deal with it at some point or another.

Generally speaking, Good goes out of its way to share, filled with faith, hope, and love (the greatest of which is love), but these are tempered by wisdom. If the paladin guardian dies, the orphans will be enslaved by the legal, wealthy, and too-well-protected-to-assault (but not powerful enough to kidnap orphans protected by a paladin) Jerky McHatefacestache (from Ustalaviax). So the paladin must do as best as the paladin can: keep self alive, keep as many children as possible alive, and pray for a miracle. Sometimes miracles happen, and sometimes orphanages burn down do to hired arsonists who are later mysteriously murdered in back alleys leaving no witnesses.

The latter kind of thing (granted with different names and no magic) happens all too often in the real world - ours. Evil is rampant and people are terrible. Third options don't always appear. Forces for good should continue to seek new ways out, but when the time comes to act - and there are times when you must act - then you must act. Because waiting is the same as making a choice.

But your scenario.

Why not a taser? Maybe an equipment malfunction - maybe the taser fell apart, accidentally went off, or otherwise simply doesn't work. Or maybe it was stored and you were reaching for it when someone in a car recently recalled with a break and steering wheel problem accidentally runs into your vehicle. Statistically extremely unlikely... but possible. Now you've two issues to deal with. What do? You presumed the officer escalated things in the first place with a gun: why? No reason to do so. Simply follow procedure. Basically, you set up a hypothetical straw an officer to criticize his handling of a situation. Like, we could go back and forth hammering down details of various situations all day, but: there are too many different situations.

In the same way Ventor could not seem to conceive of a black/white morality system which permitted mercy, grace, redemption, etc., you seem unwilling to admit that a binary outcome situation exists regardless of the choice you make. Unfortunately that's how it goes: I suppose, sure, there are plenty of options; if all the outcomes end up either A or B it doesn't really matter and we're arguing about how good an illusion is hidden.

And that is an entirely different topic.


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I believe this thread now qualifies for

This is why we don't start Alignment threads, they cause nothing but trouble

Dark Archive

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D@rK-SePHiRoTH- wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
D@rK-SePHiRoTH- wrote:
LuniasM wrote:
What about a killer who claims to be purifying the world of evil influences and does so by murdering criminals and their families to prevent their "corruption" from spreading? Decidedly evil, despite their claims to the contrary.
I believe you just described the average course of action most paladins follow against monsters and savage humanoids in general
ah see now were talking about intent now if you think about it we don't give that person the same punishment now do we we put him in a insane asylum generally (with some exceptions) while someone stable killing someone for some less fantasied reason goes to jail or worse... so there is a difference in there somewhere right?

The difference is not relevant.

i.e.
if "all cars must be destroyed" is true,
You cannot save your car by saying:
"but my car is red, not green. it is different!"

It was never said that olny green cars must be destroyed.
Yes, green and red cars are different, but this difference is not relevant, as they are both cars, and thus they both fall under the definition of what "must be destroyed"

Now,

If (as stated by the person I quoted)
killing people that engage in criminal behavior
to cleanse the world
Is evil

then
All paladins are evil

[sarcasm]Oh, silly me, I forgot to properly format my statement. Here, let me fix it.

"What about a killer who claims to be purifying the world of evil influences and does so by murdering criminals AND THEIR FAMILIES to prevent their "corruption" from spreading? Decidedly evil, despite their claims to the contrary."

There. That should make it much easier to notice the operative portion of my analogy.[/sarcasm]


Sure, because adventurers that attack the classic village of orcs that's been giving trobles to a nearby city usually bother sparing the female ones.
They also interrogate everyone to make sure none of the orcs has been avoiding doing raids on nearby cities.
Yeah.

What really happens:
-enter village
-SMITE THE EVIL CREATURES
-possible orcs that didn't raid exist. If they do, they will fight back at PCs, because PCs are killing relatives and friends
-slaughter them anyway: they were resisting with weapons!
-PCs win
-PCs go back and get regarded as heroes of good and justice


D@rK-SePHiRoTH- wrote:


What really happens:
-enter village
-SMITE THE EVIL CREATURES
-possible orcs that didn't raid exist. If they do, they will fight back at PCs, because PCs are killing relatives and friends
-slaughter them anyway: they were resisting with weapons!
-PCs win
-PCs go back and get regarded as heroes of good and justice

The likelihood of Orcs not participating in raids in aa raiding village is very slim. Paizo doesn't usually do anything based on if characters are male & female. Female Orcs raid as much as men do.


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Ok, in the bit of time I was to busy to write a post, there have been so many really long posts by so many people that I am too lazy to read them all and write a response. So I'm going to say a little blurb and then withdraw from this thread, as it's kind of gotten out of hand.
Everyone has their own opinions on alignment, because alignment is so broad. That's a good thing in my opinion, as if alignment was much tighter it would be too restrictive. But here's a closing thought. Evil is selfish. Evil does evil stuff because it gains from it, even if that gain is just "Killing stuff is fun". I don't really see what the gain is for killing the few to save the many.


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Tacticslion wrote:

On "LiS": I agree that it's a potentially weak plot element, it it is what it is, and I disagree that it's a false binary. I've come to the conclusion that many people don't understand the interface of that game (myself included, first time 'round), because it's alien to our gaming styles: the protagonist is an agent with a limited set of "in character" actions; we just get to prod her along the path as her impulse-control-guide/conscience (or whatever) and watch outcomes. Also; actually... no: the more I've pondered it, the more the final plot decision makes sense (well, "B" - "A" is still made with what seems to be an incredibly naive and almost foolish version of hope and "I'm sure it's gotta work 'cause why not?" attitude), as in the scnario you're in, you've utilized lots of "microtransactions" as it were: a little here, a little there, a little over there, and so on. That's what added up to the build up: each use within a given major "stream" adds up. Hence going back and undoing all of it undoes all of it. (I say this as not-a-fan. I don't particularly like that game or the characters in it. I do think there's more to it than many credit it for.)

False Binaries are false binaries - a taughtalogical fact. But in a case when you literally have only two cases (such as when you, say, have a programmer, who, do to having a powerful narrative reason and/or design/time/brain-space limitations cannot create additional options and thus within the confines of a game) have two options, what do you pick?

So far, a popular option seems to be, "That's unfair; this game sucks!" and leaving. Fair enough, sometimes, but certainly not a universal solution.

Truth be told, such situations should be unique, crafted by story, and fitted to the group, which means that there really isn't "one right answer". And whether or not you should set up a Torchwood scenario for your gaming group is heavily dependent on you and your players.


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Vidmaster7 wrote:


your talking about a morale absolutist view in that case all murder of sentient life is evil therefore all dnd characters (with the exception of maybe a very few closet cases) are evil (i'm going to call this the murder hobo example.)

I would point out that "Murder" is illegal killing, not just killing or even immoral killing.

From Merriam-Webster:

Full Definition of murder

1
: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought

2
a : something very difficult or dangerous <the traffic was murder>
b : something outrageous or blameworthy <getting away with murder>

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