What is Good and what is not


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Envall wrote:

Two things to consider.

To whose benefit?
and
On whose expense?

For the benefit of others, and at your own expense? Good action.
For your own benefit, and at the expense of others? Evil action.

Every other combination falls into neutral.

This way has always felt intuitive to me.

I like that framework as well.


Scythia wrote:
The Sideromancer wrote:
Re: Batman, if he kills joker, he's now a murderer, somebody the GCPD can no longer leave alone. In a sense, batsy leaves him alive so he's not in prison when the next villain shows up, which may well have apocalyptic-scale abilities.
If the Joker turns up dead, no cop is going to investigate that death. They'll just have a drink in celebration and sleep a little easier that night.

Frankly, Joker's one of those supervillain's who's been escalated to the point where his continued survival is pretty ridiculous. Take all his various comic exploits in total and you've got one of the greatest mass murderers in world history, who's repeatedly gotten his hands on nuclear weapons and other WMDs.


Starbuck_II wrote:
The Sideromancer wrote:
Re: Batman, if he kills joker, he's now a murderer, somebody the GCPD can no longer leave alone. In a sense, batsy leaves him alive so he's not in prison when the next villain shows up, which may well have apocalyptic-scale abilities.
He kills the Joker in the Killing Joke and gets away with it (ending sequence after finally laughing at Joker's jokes).

That is a fan theory that the actual creator of the comic has said is not legitimate. Though he wanted to have such an event in the book, DC editorial said no, and thus at the actual end of the comic he is lead away by the GCPD.

Personal pet peeve. Don't read fan theories on the internet about comic books and spread them unless you've read the actual comic. The Killing Joke is/was fully in continuity because it became the origin of Oracle and in the continuity the Joker was very much alive.

FYI I used the "he broke his oath" earlier as a note that the example was a police officer, who does take an oath.

For those, however, who think a Paladin can break an oath because that is just Chaotic and not Good/Evil...

You haven't read the Paladin fine print:

"act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth)"

(excerpted from the Paladin code)

Killing a helpless foe is not acting with honor. Breaking the Paladin code. Which causes a fall just like committing an evil act does.


HWalsh wrote:
Killing a helpless foe is not acting with honor. Breaking the Paladin code. Which causes a fall just like committing an evil act does.

I feel like that comes down to creed and circumstance and could or could not be considered "honorable". I feel the statement (paraphrased) "Killing a helpless foe will cause a Paladin to fall" is a bit too absolutist.


HWalsh wrote:
Killing a helpless foe is not acting with honor. Breaking the Paladin code. Which causes a fall just like committing an evil act does.

Just to make sure we're on the same page, your argument is that if the party Wizard or Cleric paralyzes an enemy and leaves them helpless, the Paladin cannot Coup De Grace that helpless foe?


or is it that he can't execute the hordes of non combatant orc sows and imps when he puts paid to the evils perpetrated by the tribe?


If the guards had to die, why take them alive?


Firewarrior44 wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
Killing a helpless foe is not acting with honor. Breaking the Paladin code. Which causes a fall just like committing an evil act does.
I feel like that comes down to creed and circumstance and could or could not be considered "honorable". I feel the statement (paraphrased) "Killing a helpless foe will cause a Paladin to fall" is a bit too absolutist.

Yeah, I'd see no issues with Paladin passing judgement and executing an evildoer if their crimes warranted such an action and putting said villain on public trial before a court of law would be impractical. After all, there's a Lawful Good Empyreal Lord of just executions.


Envall wrote:

Two things to consider.

To whose benefit?
and
On whose expense?

For the benefit of others, and at your own expense? Good action.
For your own benefit, and at the expense of others? Evil action.

Every other combination falls into neutral.

This way has always felt intuitive to me.

I second this, but in the end it is up to the GM, and how they define a good/evil action.

As far as the paladin code; paladins are bound to the law as much as they are to good. The code "a paladin's code requires that she respect legitimate authority, act with honor (not lying, not cheating, not using poison, and so forth), help those in need (provided they do not use the help for evil or chaotic ends), and punish those who harm or threaten innocents." The god the paladin is serving has the final say on can a paladin kill a helpless creature/person. Punishing those who harm or threaten innocents may be done to a helpless person if the god says it is okay.


Paizo has published at least two paladin codes that don't require taking prisoners in some circumstances. One is the Glorious Reclamation (mostly Iomedae worshippers) in The Hellfire Compact.

Glorious Reclamation Paladin Code wrote:
I will give no quarter to devils or other servants of Hell, allies or agents of House Thrune, or champions of evil and wickedness, nor will I ask for it in return.

The other is Torag.

Torag's Paladin Code wrote:
Against my people’s enemies, I will show no mercy. I will not allow their surrender, except when strategy warrants. I will defeat them, yet even in the direst struggle, I will act in a way that brings honor to Torag.

If you can kill them when they throw down their weapons and beg for mercy I don't see why you couldn't if they are temporarily incapacitated and not surrendering or claiming to have seen the light.


Envall wrote:

Two things to consider.

To whose benefit?
and
On whose expense?

For the benefit of others, and at your own expense? Good action.
For your own benefit, and at the expense of others? Evil action.

Every other combination falls into neutral.

This way has always felt intuitive to me.

I think this is a good framework to begin with when deciding good and evil, but it is still too incomplete to catch all the minor nuances and intentionality that could be attributed to alignment based actions.

For a long example see spoiler.

Spoiler:
A guard is convicted falsely on charges of aiding known criminals. After a long stay at a forced labour camp he returns, allies with former criminal (both just and unjustly convicted) to find those responsible for his conviction. He discovers many of the nobles on the city council have succumb to the rot of corruption and abuse of power, that their stations give then access to. He then organizes the lower classes and criminal elements into a effective fighting force, fighting a shadow war against the nobles that occasionally spills out of the shadows and become bloody violence in the streets, where unfortunately innocents get killed in the crossfire. Finally after much fighting he and his allies, are triumphant and bring the villainous nobles to justice (those who survived at least), but the rest of the nobles are still very nervous about the revolutionary forces the guard has let loose in their city. They confront him and demand, that he starts dismantling what he has created to secure to the peace and stability, of the city. He listens to them and ponders for a few days before refusing their demands, but chooses to let his rebellion go, to find its own path and purpose, while he goes into exile in a neighboring city-state.

So in this example is the guards actions:

1: Neutral?
because -> serving justice for himself (own benefit) also end up serving justice for others (benefit of others)

2: Good?
Because -> Ending corruption and abuse of power by the noble helps the lover classes (benefit of others) even after he has found and punished those who have wronged him personally (own expense)

3: Evil?
Because -> Seeking to end the wrong done to him (own benefit) let to a shadow war, where he and his revolutionaries used the anonymity of lower classes to hide them selves, which let to harsher crack down on suspected dissidents, some of which where innocent (expense of others)


Kjeldorn wrote:


I think this is a good framework to begin with when deciding good and evil, but it is still too incomplete to catch all the minor nuances and intentionality that could be attributed to alignment based actions.

For a long example see spoiler.

** spoiler omitted **...

Well it is partial because I did not want to involve chaos and law to it.

Justice is one of those concepts that involves the totality of the system. Different values of justice and methods almost exist in every bracket of the different alignments.

Someone makes you suffer and we reason that justice demands there must be a counter-action. Eye for eye, amends, rehabilitation, countless ideas. Now, your example is complicated mostly because of its length. Scenarios where twists and turns change your motivation to continue are expected, characters change in times of great turmoil and the conflicts they face. So it is hard to take that whole scenario and wrap it into one label.

The common variety of eye to eye is kinda of chaotic neutral behavior, with the emphasis on the chaos. Why neutral, because I feel you can never really avoid expending yourself too in the process. Revenge consumes both people involved in it. But this is a frail balance. This reasoning only holds if your focus is true and on the party that hurt you.

Where ones revenge dips to evil is when it starts involving people unrelated to your suffering. Good old escalating violence, while good is kinda the opposite of it. When your revenge is smaller than the suffering caused upon you.


Envall wrote:

Well it is partial because I did not want to involve chaos and law to it.

Justice is one of those concepts that involves the totality of the system. Different values of justice and methods almost exist in every bracket of the different alignments.

Someone makes you suffer and we reason that justice demands there must be a counter-action. Eye for eye, amends, rehabilitation, countless ideas. Now, your example is complicated mostly because of its length. Scenarios where twists and turns change your motivation to continue are expected, characters change in times of great turmoil and the conflicts they face. So it is hard to take that whole scenario and wrap it into one label....

I really like your answer, even if I don't fully agree, its rather well thought trough.

Envall wrote:
The common variety of eye to eye is kinda of chaotic neutral behavior, with the emphasis on the chaos. Why neutral, because I feel you can never really avoid expending yourself too in the process.

well another good example of how perspectives can differ. For me the eye for an eye thing is more Lawful Neutral, since it actually quite literally suggests a reciprocity when metering out punishment or revenge for wrong doing (ie you should meter out punishment equal to the damage you have sustained).

But again I always appreciate different perspectives from other Players/Gm's.


@OP: This is an alignment system question, which means that the right answer is...there is no right answer. The alignment system has been interpreted in a lot of different ways, and there are many camps over what exactly each alignment means, what actions are covered under them, and so on. Which is very understandable, Morality is already a difficult to define and has many grey areas, without the added difficulty of being an actual mechanical system in the game.

RAW, Pathfinder says that it should be considred evil given past items/spells/actions that are always considered evil no matter intent of the character, with aligned spells being the best example of this. IMO, go with your gut feeling. A clear answer does not exsist, so just dicuss it with your group, and come to a decision that the majority of you agree on.


"Helpless" as a defense against killing is kind of strange, if you ask me. If Babyeater the Antipaladin repeatedly refused to surrender, the last attack in combat leaves him at a stable -1 HP, and the party is still in the middle of enemy territory where carting around a prisoner would be a liability... if it would be perfectly okay to kill the guy in combat, and a guarantee that he would be rightfully executed if you manage to get back to civilization with him, I don't really see why giving him a quick death while he's still helpless is necessarily evil. Would it be less evil to let him recover/heal him back to consciousness, return his weapon, and challenge him to a second fight so you can kill him in battle instead of in cold blood? What if he's KOd before you can fully kill him that time, too?

Avoiding killing a helpless enemy is, to me, a matter of good alternatives. Generally that means you have an opportunity to do something else. Take them prisoner and preach at them until you get a more decisive idea of whether they can be redeemed, haul them off to jail, just leave them there to live or die by the whims of fate, see if they're more willing to submit to a Mark of Justice or Geas or something to keep them in line so they can be safely allowed to live, whatever you wanna do. Their helplessness is only a factor in that immediate self-defense is no longer part of the equation.

(Two of my paladins have been just fine with CdGing defeated enemies, and one of them deliberately killed someone who threw away their weapon to plead helplessness. Neither one has fallen, at least not yet. So probably my GM agrees, or at least my GM's interpretation of Iomedae agrees.)


Executing an evil captive isn't necessarily in cold blood too. It can also just be dispensing justice. If not for your personal justice justice for their victims.

What if you subdued a man who just murdered an orphanage and ate the corpses (or whatever despicable acts you can imagine). You catch up with him but he begs and pleads for his life an throws down his weapons and is overall just behaving in a pathetic manner. Should he be afforded the luxury of still existing? Of being redeemed and becoming Good aligned (possibly forcibly) so instead of eternal torment in Hell he is instead rewarded with an eternity in Heaven. The orphans probably end up in the boneyard or another neutral plane due to them not really having an alignment.

I find that outcome funny.


HWalsh wrote:
Matthew Downie wrote:
(Personally I don't see how killing a non-helpless person is any better - it's not like nonlethal damage isn't an option.)

It's known, in television/movies, as the good cop theory.

So, basically, it works like this. Good isn't stupid. If you're facing an enemy that you can take down using non-lethal means without undue risk to yourself then you do it. If you put yourself at significant if you try it, then you don't try it.

-----

So your theoretical good cop faces off against a street tough. The good cop tells the tough to surrender, the tough takes a swing at the good cop in response. The good cop is bigger, stronger, and a better fighter. The good cop wrestles the tough to the ground, knocks him out, then cuffs him.

Then your theoretical good cop encounters a bank robber with a gun. The good cop tells the robber to surrender. The robber refuses and shoots at the good cop. The good cop shoots the robber in the chest. The good cop rushes over and sees that the robber is alive, he tries to stabilize him as he calls for help.

-----

Now a bad cop is in the same situation. The bad cop tells the tough to surrender, the tough takes a swing at the bad cop in response. The bad cop is bigger, stronger, and a better fighter. The bad cop smirks and raises his fists. He snap kicks the tough in the knee, then stomps down to crush his instep. The bad cop laughs as the tough cries out, then knocks him out, before he

pulls his gun and shoots him in the head.

Then your theoretical bad cop encounters a bank robber with a gun. The bad cop tells the robber to surrender while he is in the process of shooting the robber in the chest. Never intending to accept his surrender the bad cop walks over and sees the robber is still alive. He leans over and shoots him in the head to finish him off.

-----

Look at those examples. If you see the first in a movie you generally assume that the cop is a straight arrow. He's a good guy. If you see the second, then you know the cop...

Ah, an alignment debate!

Even more so, the beauty of hypotheticals is that they know how they End. consider this alternative:

So your theoretical good cop faces off against a street tough. The good cop tells the tough to surrender, the tough takes a swing at the good cop in response. The good cop is bigger, stronger, and a better fighter. The good cop wrestles the tough to the ground. <The tough pulls out his switch-blade and stabs the cop to death.>

Another thing to remember is that the good/bad cop is in a position of power socially as well as physically. Flip it around:

-----

So your <rebel> faces off against a <cop>. The <rebel> tells the <cop> to surrender, the <cop> takes a swing at the <rebel> in response. The <rebel> is bigger, stronger, and a better fighter. The <rebel> wrestles the <cop> to the ground, knocks him out, then cuffs him. <Later, the oppressive state puts up the rebel's face on all the tvs because the cop saw his face>

-----


The good-cop/bad-cop analogy being used also assumes that there is a mechanism in place to reliably prevent the "helpless" foe from continuing to harm others. This is not even getting into whether you can reliably determine whether your foe has even been rendered helpless. It is rather difficult to even be sure the foe is actually unarmed. Unarmed does not equate to helpless, and is not an unalterable condition.

It is never as simple as you want it to be, in whatever venue you choose.


Daw wrote:

The good-cop/bad-cop analogy being used also assumes that there is a mechanism in place to reliably prevent the "helpless" foe from continuing to harm others. This is not even getting into whether you can reliably determine whether your foe has even been rendered helpless. It is rather difficult to even be sure the foe is actually unarmed. Unarmed does not equate to helpless, and is not an unalterable condition.

It is never as simple as you want it to be, in whatever venue you choose.

And that is why truly good people are rare.

A truly good person doesn't care how difficult it is. A good person does what is good. If they die? It doesn't matter they did what was good. If something bad happens to them? It doesn't matter. They did what was good.

It IS that simple.

That is why moral relativism is a load of bovine waste.

Is good necessarily tactically sound? No.

Good doesn't care if it is tactically sound or not, good is good. Period. If the "good cop" isn't willing to do the "good" thing then he's not wholly good. Simple as that.


Crag_Irons wrote:
As far as the paladin code; paladins are bound to the law as much as they are to good.

Actually, as a GM, I disagree with this. The first sentence of their code of conduct notes that they fall if they commit an evil act - but it does not say they fall if they commit a chaotic act. That's a rather glaring omission if they're meant to be equally important to a Paladin.

My preferred style for Paladins is "Strive to uphold both law and good, but if there's ever a genuine conflict, sacrifice law to continue upholding good".


I Disagree with you Mr. Walsh.
It's your opinion though, so at your table it's your call.
I am sure you can allow other tables to play it differently.


Daw wrote:

I Disagree with you Mr. Walsh.

It's your opinion though, so at your table it's your call.
I am sure you can allow other tables to play it differently.

Certainly. Each person, at their own table, is fully welcome to do whatever they wish. I'm here offering my opinions, nothing more, nothing less.

Even in the statement that sparked the exchange with me, I said, "I'd have the Paladin fall."

I've played with moral relativists, many times. At their table, if they are GM'ing, then I play by those rules. I adapt my character's behavior. Paladins that I have played (in those situations) become much more brutal, cold, and generally far less forgiving.

In those situations my Paladins are rarely nice, they rarely help people unless there is a true need to step in, they tend to let people sort things out for themselves. They follow moral relativism to its core and use a kind of "code of priority."

It feels dirty to me though. I can't explain it. So, usually, I just don't play Paladins in those settings. Fortunately, in recent years, I don't play very much anymore (I do play in one intermittent game) and usually just GM.

Since there is a GM shortage in general it works out well enough.


Meh.

I just try to do things in the coolest way possibly. Slaying an evil foe in the line of work is kinda expected.

Though sometimes capturing the baddy and executing him in the town that he wronged to give the villagers some closure is awesome.

Thinking about OP's question and the meta plot. Yeah they're fine. They're rebels trying to overthrow a tyranny. Cloak and dagger operations that leave no survivors are typical. Innocents caught in the crossfire would be the thing to look out for though.

In the end, killing an evil person reduces the amount of evil out there.


Good and evil are rarely absolute. In most cases every action has good, evil and neutral aspects to it. I doubt that any action can be pure good. So saying that the good person does always does the right thing means he does nothing. If he never does an evil act then he cannot act, and thereby allows evil to triumph and is not good.

The only thing a good person can do is to do their best in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. If they end up accidently doing something evil then they try to make up for it as much as they can. No one is perfect and as long as you are doing more good than harm you are still good.


Scavion wrote:

Meh.

I just try to do things in the coolest way possibly. Slaying an evil foe in the line of work is kinda expected.

Though sometimes capturing the baddy and executing him in the town that he wronged to give the villagers some closure is awesome.

Thinking about OP's question and the meta plot. Yeah they're fine. They're rebels trying to overthrow a tyranny. Cloak and dagger operations that leave no survivors are typical. Innocents caught in the crossfire would be the thing to look out for though.

In the end, killing an evil person reduces the amount of evil out there.

I mean at it's core Pathfinder is just a game of about bunch of mass murderers going around breaking into creatures places of residence and taking their stuff from said creatures cold dead appendages.

So yea stressing over weather or not killing something is evil is a tad out of line with the assumptions of the setting/game :P


Scavion wrote:


In the end, killing an evil person reduces the amount of evil out there.

Temporarily and locally usually.

There is always an element of excuse to "We had to kill them!".
Those rebels could had used disguises.
Memory wiping magic.
Better stealth.

And even if you are seen, carry that failure with conviction, rather than taking the easy route.

But I am saying these with the kind of a "Goodness high ground".
Very few ideals are worth taking to the grave with you... unless you are that kind of a person.


Envall wrote:
Scavion wrote:


In the end, killing an evil person reduces the amount of evil out there.

Temporarily and locally usually.

There is always an element of excuse to "We had to kill them!".
Those rebels could had used disguises.
Memory wiping magic.
Better stealth.

And even if you are seen, carry that failure with conviction, rather than taking the easy route.

But I am saying these with the kind of a "Goodness high ground".
Very few ideals are worth taking to the grave with you... unless you are that kind of a person.

But there is the other half of this. You die for your principals because you refuse to kill. But then the tyrant continues to oppress your people for three generations more before another hero rises.

In some cases I would consider the "death before dishonor" people selfish.

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