Paladin Code Debugging


Prerelease Discussion

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Liberty's Edge

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Neo2151 wrote:

This is kinda the crux of my point, actually.

The Lawful Good character is at a legitimate impasse when legitimate authority prevents action against evil. By weakening the code the way PF2 looks to be doing, it's essentially saying that Paladins are going to be Lawful... eh, kinda. Good is what really matters.

This has always been true of Paladins. Always. It is not a change, and the fact that people seem to think it is makes me even happier for the new Code Priorities.

They are extremely Lawful, but only up to the point that it comes into direct conflict with being Good. Then Good wins.

Neo2151 wrote:
Which is pretty much NG in a nutshell: Do the best good. If the law is the best good, obey it. If the law gets in the way of good, discard it.

That is indeed NG. But it's not the Paladin as presented. The Paladin, as presented, is actually fanatically devoted to the law. They can't discard it because it's bad or stupid or keeping them from helping more people. They can only ignore it under very specific and rare circumstances.

For example, by the current Code, a Paladin cannot go around giving money to the poor in a place where that's illegal unless the poor people in question will literally die without her help. She cannot kill someone she knows to be a serial killer if the law protects them due to their high society connections (though she can and should follow them so as to stop them in the act). She cannot disobey the local commander's poor tactical decisions in a war until and unless the loss of life becomes imminent. Indeed, she cannot do anything to break the law except under the three very specific exceptions noted previously.

All of those are things a NG person can do easily, and likely should.


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Mike J wrote:
You can spend forever trying to tweak the code, but as long as there is a way for a Paladin to fall, there will be GMs out there making the entire game about it. And they will do just about anything to force those Paladins to fall even if a whole bunch of rocks have to fall and kill everyone.

That's really a GM problem rather than a rule one.


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Mark Seifter wrote:
That all said, not performing evil actions to save innocents is the code working as intended, but I actually am keenly interested in what ways you guys are thinking the code might have exploits, unforeseen gotchas, and the like. That's what got me reading this thread. So I encourage you to brainstorm and I can straighten out the code if necessary!

Mark Seifter also gets this thread. Which isn't surprising all in all.

The example provided was an example. It's cliché and familiar to many to leave space for other scenarios.

It is interesting what a neutral surface can reflect of its viewer. The opening post and example make no mention of no-win scenarios. In that situation, the code is unambiguous on what action to take. The thread was not made to promote an opinion. If you go looking for one, you will likely only find echoes. The question it seeks to raise is, is "X" working as intended.

In this case, Mark says yes. Some other people may feel differently.

It also mentions no criticism of the code. It stated that the code is in the playtest, which it is. It stated that the developers want it to be tested, which Mark has personally confirmed. It presented a classic, clichéd example of such a test as a kick-off, which has still produced thoughtful discourse, e.g. falling for following the "rightest" path.

Time and again Paizo employees stress inclusion and room for differing opinions. People should have a chance to test the code as-is regardless of their preferences. As it happens, I think the current code is very well written, that Mark (and/or whoever else worked on it) has done an excellent first draft, and that the finalised product will most likely come out very close to its current form. All that is merely my opinion, and should not colour the discussion or discourage people who may feel differently, so it is not expressed in the opening post.

Perhaps that will dispel any misunderstandings. This thread was made to debug the code of, to use Mark's words, "exploits, unforeseen gotchas, and the like". Feel free to, if you wish.


It might be a good idea to describe how severe an infraction against the code causes a paladin to fall. If it's just any violation you get stuff like losing abilities for jaywalking one time and such. I don't think the intent is for paladins to be so rigid as to be robots. And a good-faith attempt to make the best possible choice in an impossible situation probably shouldn't cause a fall either. I see actual 'falling' as something that happens only with repeated and/or grievous violations.

The hierarchy of the code does make for a great starting point though.


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FedoraFerret wrote:
The correct and Paladinly answer to this, as Deadmanwalking said, to heal the woman, fall, and perform an atonement later.

I want to add a comment to this, a thought that struck me as I was rereading this thread. If most people agreed that the "paladinly" thing to do is as you describe, I would argue that it shouldn't constitute a fall.

The situation is extremely arbitrary and makes no sense but we can rephrase it.

1) Our hero encounters a dying person and wants to help them
2) Our hero lacks any means to do so other than using an evil source to do so
3) Our hero is sworn not to commit any evil
4) The hero is also sworn to help innocents, or not let them come to harm through inaction

Premises 3 and 4 are currently structured such that 3 is supposed to take precedence over 4.

Applying these premises/understandings, it's clear that the paladin should not use an evil source to help the person, even if it means the person will die. At least according to their code. The real problem with the whole situation is the 2nd point. The idea that the hero lacks any means to help the woman aside from an evil source. This is incredibly contrived, though not impossible.

It seems the prudent choice is to always keep extra magical consumables for healing, as well as alchemical, and even mundane sources of healing available to reduce the chances of such an occurrence. Perhaps a prudent paladin always keeps one charge of healing energy available for an innocent in the case of an emergency.

But sometimes the paladin can't win. Sometimes you have no resources at your disposal, and the person will die. And the code should probably cover more explicitly, that sometimes the paladin (through no fault of their own) can fail and that it shouldn't affect their relationship with their deity.


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Claxon wrote:
FedoraFerret wrote:
The correct and Paladinly answer to this, as Deadmanwalking said, to heal the woman, fall, and perform an atonement later.

I want to add a comment to this, a thought that struck me as I was rereading this thread. If most people agreed that the "paladinly" thing to do is as you describe, I would argue that it shouldn't constitute a fall.

The situation is extremely arbitrary and makes no sense but we can rephrase it.

1) Our hero encounters a dying person and wants to help them
2) Our hero lacks any means to do so other than using an evil source to do so
3) Our hero is sworn not to commit any evil
4) The hero is also sworn to help innocents, or not let them come to harm through inaction

Premises 3 and 4 are currently structured such that 3 is supposed to take precedence over 4.

Applying these premises/understandings, it's clear that the paladin should not use an evil source to help the person, even if it means the person will die. At least according to their code. The real problem with the whole situation is the 2nd point. The idea that the hero lacks any means to help the woman aside from an evil source. This is incredibly contrived, though not impossible.

It seems the prudent choice is to always keep extra magical consumables for healing, as well as alchemical, and even mundane sources of healing available to reduce the chances of such an occurrence. Perhaps a prudent paladin always keeps one charge of healing energy available for an innocent in the case of an emergency.

But sometimes the paladin can't win. Sometimes you have no resources at your disposal, and the person will die. And the code should probably cover more explicitly, that sometimes the paladin (through no fault of their own) can fail and that it shouldn't affect their relationship with their deity.

Paizo already thought of this.

The hierarchy puts not doing evil above helping. Thus the Paladin thing is not to help if the only way to do so is to do an evil act.

That is why Paladins are LG and not NG.

An NG character would say, "Screw the Code, I'm going to help." Then fall.

A LG character, who really believes in the Code, would follow the Code above their desire to help.

Liberty's Edge

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Claxon wrote:

3) Our hero is sworn not to commit any evil

4) The hero is also sworn to help innocents, or not let them come to harm through inaction

Premises 3 and 4 are currently structured such that 3 is supposed to take precedence over 4.

The thing is that 3 basically has to take precedence over 4 or you can torture or murder someone (presumably a non-innocent) to save innocent lives and remain a Paladin. Which is not the fictional archetype Paladins should be filling.

If 4 takes precedence over 3, then the ends do, in fact, justify the means for all Paladins, and that's a terrible precedent to set.

Liberty's Edge

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Since Mark's watching this thread, I'll bring up a real problem with the current Code brought up in another thread:

What counts as murder? I've seen people on these very boards argue that any killing at all is murder. I've seen many more people argue that all executions are murder (which would make Dammerich's Paladins sad).

Really, if murder is gonna be an example of an Evil act Paladins can fall for, we need it defined what counts as murder for those purposes.


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Neo2151 wrote:

This is kinda the crux of my point, actually.

The Lawful Good character is at a legitimate impasse when legitimate authority prevents action against evil. By weakening the code the way PF2 looks to be doing, it's essentially saying that Paladins are going to be Lawful... eh, kinda. Good is what really matters.
...
Which is pretty much NG in a nutshell: Do the best good. If the law is the best good, obey it. If the law gets in the way of good, discard it.

I'm a fan of the changes in the code. They're sensible, and facilitate easier play for paladin characters. They'll cut back on Lawful Silly situations. I'm all onboard for that.

Seeing this shift, alongside requiring deities (a change that I think has long been needed) starts to make the "tradition" motivation ring a little hollow. I think that's where my greatest disappointment lies. It feels (entirely unintentional on the part of design staff) a bit like a bait and switch. "Here's 2/3 of what we need to open things up, but we're definitely not opening things up." I'm fully aware that isn't the intention, and may not even be the long-term goal, here. I'm simply commenting on how I personally read it, nothing more than that.


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I was thinking about the tenets, and how they can be used for different paladins. For example, swapping the position of Obey Law, and Protect Innocent, that could be a very good starting point for LN paladins. Add a few more tenets to replace, and it is pretty interesting


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The other consideration is 'What is Innocent?'

Is it 'Innocent by a jury of one's peers'?

Is it 'Innocent by de facto ruling of a soveriegn leader'?

Is it 'Innocent by virtue of lack of knowing any better'?

Is it 'Innocent because the player/GM doesn't want to deal with the alternative'?

Innocent is a VERY loaded word, and if we go whole hog with it, then there WILL be people who will take the 'law enforcement' stance on this.

"Welll... they're 'Innocent' ...because they got off on a technicality. We'll keep watching them until they screw up and then we'll throw the book at them."

...I've heard this mentality from members of law enforcement AND the general community, and it's a big common trope out there...

...and at the same time we have people IRL that have been incarcerated for a good chunk of their natural lives because law enforcement was 'darn tooting sure' they were 'NotInnocent' and made it happen when the reality was the person in question was 'VeryInnocentAndFramedUp'.

I appreciate the idea that Paladins shouldn't be held accountable EDIT: for 'Gotchas, but this mentality NEEDS to be addressed.

As well as a solid enough definition of what 'Innocent' is needs to be put in text.


I'd like to point that personally I believe that being able to get out of moral quandary (or i more in general any situation) thanks to a simple flowchart is going to be as anticlimatic as possible. Never liked games with paladins in it because there was almost no point in spinning situation or proposing deals, you always know how the party would have reacted if they didn't want the paladin to fail, and that kills most of my enjoyment as a master.
You get in this weird state where you are basically playing with a finite state machine, you put in decision, they follow the flowchart, they spill out the answer. Boring.


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What about the other big change, with the addition of Goblins to the core races all "classical" evil races are no to be seen as potential good aligned/not threatening and therefore innocent. So attacking an orc tribe whose members raided a trading route is no longer an option since the paladin cant be sure if he gets the right ones and even if the paladin still has an easy way to "detect evil" he first would have some way to check for actual guilt. If he for example tracks those orcs later. This is contrary to the desire of most players who wouldnt think of questioning anyone.

Liberty's Edge

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Wermut wrote:
What about the other big change, with the addition of Goblins to the core races all "classical" evil races are no to be seen as potential good aligned/not threatening and therefore innocent.

This is not a change. It's been true in Golarion the whole time.

Wermut wrote:
So attacking an orc tribe whose members raided a trading route is no longer an option since the paladin cant be sure if he gets the right ones and even if the paladin still has an easy way to "detect evil" he first would have some way to check for actual guilt. If he for example tracks those orcs later. This is contrary to the desire of most players who wouldnt think of questioning anyone.

Eh. Attacking a group that's been involved in raiding caravans is not a problem. Replace 'orc' with 'bandit' or 'barbarian' and this scenario has already happened and is not super difficult to work through from a moral perspective.


I disagree hwalsh. A ng paladin would not say screw the code. A ng paladin would weigh both the code, helping the individual, his personal beliefs and what he is willing to live with.

A CG one on the other hand.... oh yeah I could see one saying that.... but then it is a bit chaotic anyway.

think though, everybody here and then some have different opinions on how alignment works and what constitutes as such.. even more so when it comes to the childish argueamentive " I'm right and you're wrong " stuff.


Deadmanwalking wrote:


For example, by the current Code, a Paladin cannot go around giving money to the poor in a place where that's illegal unless the poor people in question will literally die without her help. She cannot kill someone she knows to be a serial killer if the law protects them due to their high society connections (though she can and should follow them so as to stop them in the act). She cannot disobey the local commander's poor tactical decisions in a war until and unless the loss of life becomes imminent. Indeed, she cannot do anything to break the law except under the three very specific exceptions noted previously.

For the serial killer, dress up like their favorite targets so you can defend yourself when they attack (defending and killing okay)

Or
Provoke him to attack first (maybe when drunk) so you can beat him up (not kill unless they brandish a weapon, then the law allows defending lethally).


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Wermut wrote:
So attacking an orc tribe whose members raided a trading route is no longer an option since the paladin cant be sure if he gets the right ones and even if the paladin still has an easy way to "detect evil" he first would have some way to check for actual guilt. If he for example tracks those orcs later. This is contrary to the desire of most players who wouldnt think of questioning anyone.
Eh. Attacking a group that's been involved in raiding caravans is not a problem. Replace 'orc' with 'bandit' or 'barbarian' and this scenario has already happened and is not super difficult to work through from a moral perspective.

So kill the group for the potential deeds of individuals, sorry no thats not how it should work. If a class should truly be held to a higher standard constantly checked by divine jurisdiction this would be far too easy. You don't know if the group was aware or not and even if they not immediatly become perpetrators themself. A paladin can't hold others to the standards a paladin sets for himself. He would have to check every situation for witnesses, motivs. Heck in most cases when intelligent beings are involved he would have to accept that he lacks the jurisdiction to act except for the most dire situations.


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Steelfiredragon wrote:

I disagree hwalsh. A ng paladin would not say screw the code. A ng paladin would weigh both the code, helping the individual, his personal beliefs and what he is willing to live with.

A CG one on the other hand.... oh yeah I could see one saying that.... but then it is a bit chaotic anyway.

think though, everybody here and then some have different opinions on how alignment works and what constitutes as such.. even more so when it comes to the childish argueamentive " I'm right and you're wrong " stuff.

Why wouldn't they?

A minor evil action to save a life? The argument that NG is the most good would claim they would. Use the wand of infernal healing, make a deal with a demon... A minor act to save a life...

A Paladin wouldn't. Nothing good, regardless of how it appears, can come of evil.

A Paladin would watch an innocent person die before committing a minor evil act to save them.

And that is what makes a Paladin different from anyone else.

They accept that responsibility. They know that at any second they may be called on to make that sacrifice. They accept that, and more so they believe it is right and just.

It tears them up to do it, but they do it, because of the Code.

You want to know where the Lawful part of the Paladin is? Right there.

Liberty's Edge

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Starbuck_II wrote:

For the serial killer, dress up like their favorite targets so you can defend yourself when they attack (defending and killing okay)

Or
Provoke him to attack first (maybe when drunk) so you can beat him up (not kill unless they brandish a weapon, then the law allows defending lethally).

Absolutely! Solutions a Paladin definitely has. But someone NG or CG could just kill him.

Wermut wrote:
So kill the group for the potential deeds of individuals, sorry no thats not how it should work.

I never suggested this. And if you do this to any tribe you've committed an Evil act.

I said that you can treat an Orc Camp just like a Bandit Camp. In both cases that actually covers several different strategies, including approaching in a friendly way and simply defending yourself if attacked.

That one's certainly not Evil. :)


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HWalsh wrote:


A Paladin would watch an innocent person die before committing a minor evil act to save them.

True.

And a NG paladin would have "protect the innocent" as first tenet, while "so not commit evil" would be the second.

That does not mean the NG paladin does not follow tenets, or is not restricted by them. Just that the order of 1 and 2 is reversed.


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Wermut wrote:
So kill the group for the potential deeds of individuals, sorry no thats not how it should work.

I never suggested this. And if you do this to any tribe you've committed an Evil act.

I said that you can treat an Orc Camp just like a Bandit Camp. In both cases that actually covers several different strategies, including approaching in a friendly way and simply defending yourself if attacked.

That one's certainly not Evil. :)

Sorry misread there. ^^° but yes at that point playing a paladin already doesnt only restrict his own options but also the options of the group (if they'd consider them or not).


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


A Paladin would watch an innocent person die before committing a minor evil act to save them.

True.

And a NG paladin would have "protect the innocent" as first Tenney, while "so not commit evil" would be the second.

That does not mean the NG paladin does not follow tenets, or is not restricted by them. Just that the order of 1 and 2 is reversed.

No.

If you have to change the Code so a NG could be a Paladin then NGs cannot be Paladins.

Thank you for helping me prove that.


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I did not change the code. I changed the order of priority, which is something did not exist in PF 1, yet no one thought there was no code.
A NG paladin will be able to follow each and every tenet, as long as the 1 and 2 change order.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


A Paladin would watch an innocent person die before committing a minor evil act to save them.

True.

And a NG paladin would have "protect the innocent" as first tenet, while "so not commit evil" would be the second.

That does not mean the NG paladin does not follow tenets, or is not restricted by them. Just that the order of 1 and 2 is reversed.

I'm curious why you think the lawful part of alignment has anything to do with evil?

NG wouldn't change the order at all - the part they might change would be "Respect for Law when the Law does good - change or challenge the law - when it causes harm"

Not doing evil would still be #1.

I'm amused by the number of people who use the old description of chaotic to claim that chaos means no code or laws. No one seems to bat an eye over the idea of a barbarian tribe having laws, codes, and honor - even though by the rules they are all chaotic - (the fact that barbarian 'laws' are discarded is an entirely different topic) - but say chaos and paladin in the same thread and everyone looses their mind saying they can't follow rules.

Anyway the changes to the code are great - I like having a clear order - I'd like to see the alignment section go away and just rely on code/anathema to define the paladin, for the playtest I think you are missing on an opportunity to show that it's superfluous.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
Starbuck_II wrote:

For the serial killer, dress up like their favorite targets so you can defend yourself when they attack (defending and killing okay)

Or
Provoke him to attack first (maybe when drunk) so you can beat him up (not kill unless they brandish a weapon, then the law allows defending lethally).
Absolutely! Solutions a Paladin definitely has. But someone NG or CG could just kill him.

Are you sure that they do?

Starbuck_II wrote:
dress up like their favorite targets so you can defend yourself when they attack (defending and killing okay)

The code says "You must act with honor, never cheating, lying, or taking advantage of others". Disguising yourself as another with intent to deceive seems rather like lying. You are not doing so to prevent immediate harm to an innocent, or avoid committing a willingly evil act.

Starbuck_II wrote:
Provoke him to attack first (maybe when drunk) so you can beat him up (not kill unless they brandish a weapon, then the law allows defending lethally).

The code says "You must act with honor, never cheating, lying, or taking advantage of others". Waiting for a person to be in a state of compromised judgement, and then purposefully provoking them, very much sounds like taking advantage of others. You are not doing so to prevent immediate harm to an innocent, or avoid committing a willingly evil act.

Here we see an application of the code not lining up with someone's expectations of following the code.

That or me misreading the code.


HWalsh wrote:

Paizo already thought of this.

The hierarchy puts not doing evil above helping. Thus the Paladin thing is not to help if the only way to do so is to do an evil act.

That is why Paladins are LG and not NG.

An NG character would say, "Screw the Code, I'm going to help." Then fall.

A LG character, who really believes in the Code, would follow the Code above their desire to help.

We essentially said the same thing, I believe.

My only point here, is that perhaps helping innocents should be placed above the precedent not to do evil, if most people think it's the correct course of action.

Although, I did make the mistake of not more explicitly saying that before.

Personally, I'm fine with the code the way it is.

You can't always win.

Liberty's Edge

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Wearing a dress and a wig is not lying, IMO, but I could see a GM ruling it is.

Provoking someone into a fair fight is not dishonorable, indeed that's how dueling cultures in general work, and those tend to be very concerned with honor.

Liberty's Edge

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I am liking that they can't just murderhobo Goblins now just because "they are evil creatures."


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

Wearing a dress and a wig is not lying, IMO, but I could see a GM ruling it is.

Provoking someone into a fair fight is not dishonorable, indeed that's how dueling cultures in general work, and those tend to be very concerned with honor.

Tossing on a dress and wig? I agree that alone isn't lying. Creating a convincing disguise, then used to mislead someone to their loss? That seems the definition of deception. Perhaps you feel "lying" can only be in verbal or written form?

I also agree regarding fair duels. Watching someone while you wait for them to become inebriated, so that you can manipulate them during their impaired judgement, on the other hand? That's a thing in real life. Not one that's generally called honourable.

Liberty's Edge

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I'd argue dressing up/disguising yourself starts being lying when you pretend to be someone else (real or imagined). Otherwise I'd say it doesn't qualify. Dying your hair blonde to attract a serial killer who prefers blondes certainly isn't lying.

And yeah, waiting until he's drunk isn't very Paladin-friendly, but the basic plan should work even without that, which was my point.


Deadmanwalking wrote:

I'd argue dressing up/disguising yourself starts being lying when you pretend to be someone else (real or imagined). Otherwise I'd say it doesn't qualify. Dying your hair blonde to attract a serial killer who prefers blondes certainly isn't lying.

And yeah, waiting until he's drunk isn't very Paladin-friendly, but the basic plan should work even without that, which was my point.

I think there's room for argument, but I agree a paladin could likely find some way most times.

It's still intriguing to run expectations through the code blow-by-blow.


Hwalsh, I did not say that a ng paladin would use it either. though it did look like you said they would.

as I said about celestials from the three celestial planes, the 3 good alignments can work together even as paladins. their motives and priorities is the only things that would change.


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The one thing I'd really like to point out, just to point out something that may or may not be obvious to some people.

The Paladin's Code seems very 3-Laws (or 3+0th Law if you've read all of the Foundation series). One of the things that Asimov did throughout the series is show how these three simple laws that most people would be like "Yeah, that seems foolproof" are actually *far* from foolproof, and can cause so much trouble all over the place.

I'm not trying to say we should stop trying to get the code as crystal-clear as possible, but there will always be loopholes. Hopefully Mark Seifter has read most of Asimov and realizes this, and thus does not get an aneurysm trying to make it 100% foolproof.

Paizo Employee Designer

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R0b0tBadgr wrote:

The one thing I'd really like to point out, just to point out something that may or may not be obvious to some people.

The Paladin's Code seems very 3-Laws (or 3+0th Law if you've read all of the Foundation series). One of the things that Asimov did throughout the series is show how these three simple laws that most people would be like "Yeah, that seems foolproof" are actually *far* from foolproof, and can cause so much trouble all over the place.

I'm not trying to say we should stop trying to get the code as crystal-clear as possible, but there will always be loopholes. Hopefully Mark Seifter has read most of Asimov and realizes this, and thus does not get an aneurysm trying to make it 100% foolproof.

As an AI researcher before being a game designer, I am...shall we say at least somewhat aware. ;)

But as you say, in the case of a player who wants freedom to roleplay a character, having more options is probably better than a theoretical "perfect" code that determines all actions like you might want for intelligent robots.


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The new Pally code already avoids the unrealistic expectations and tyrannical conclusions of “or through inaction allow a human to come to harm”.


QuidEst wrote:


The new Pally code already avoids the unrealistic expectations and tyrannical conclusions of “or through inaction allow a human to come to harm”.

Verty true, which is good as a not-so-nice-GM could easily say "You didn't do X, and thus allowed untold peasants to come to harm, thus thou art no longer a Paladin of ANYBODY!!! Oh, and save from Divine Flame Strike from your former diety, just b'kuz"

Liberty's Edge

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Claxon wrote:
HWalsh wrote:

Paizo already thought of this.

The hierarchy puts not doing evil above helping. Thus the Paladin thing is not to help if the only way to do so is to do an evil act.

That is why Paladins are LG and not NG.

An NG character would say, "Screw the Code, I'm going to help." Then fall.

A LG character, who really believes in the Code, would follow the Code above their desire to help.

We essentially said the same thing, I believe.

My only point here, is that perhaps helping innocents should be placed above the precedent not to do evil, if most people think it's the correct course of action.

Although, I did make the mistake of not more explicitly saying that before.

Personally, I'm fine with the code the way it is.

You can't always win.

It's an interesting premise I feel like the LG Paladins would want to fall if they did take that choice, just to reiterate that evil methods should not be tolerated.

Even if it were the 'right' method, it should be an act that should be punished and mandates atonement - that is part of that hyper-honorbound LG thinking, and it's a sort you can see in the Hexenhammer Inquisitor archetype.


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Artificial 20 wrote:
"Can you help me?" asks the woman.

I think the reason the resolution seems unsatisfying is that it is hard to rationalize Infernal Healing as evil. Try another example:

Weird magic means that if an innocent child lives to his tenth birthday, the gate to the Abyss will open and demons will spill out killing thousands. Alas the kid is 9 and his birthday is tomorrow morning. Kill the kid and you've done an evil act, don't kill the kid and thousands (including the kid) will die violently.

"Should I do evil to prevent great loss of life" is a moral dilemma, and one the PF2 Paladin code resolves with a clear 'no.' That isn't a problem with the code, it's a strength.

The reason your example appears compelling isn't because we want utilitarian Paladins who are able to do evil to achieve net good results, it is because we don't really buy that Infernal Healing is an evil act. "This spell is evil, don't ask why" is what needs to go and be replaced by "This spell is evil, because every time you cast it Asmodeus gets arcane power that he uses to further his plans to enslave the universe." or some such.

If we had some clear idea of what was supposed to be so bad about Infernal Healing, we might be more sympathetic to the Paladin who says "I'm sorry you're going to die, but I won't help you. I won't do evil things, even to help good people."


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Ring_of_Gyges wrote:
If we had some clear idea of what was supposed to be so bad about Infernal Healing, we might be more sympathetic to the Paladin who says "I'm sorry you're going to die, but I won't help you. I won't do evil things, even to help good people."

From the spells description:

Quote:
Components V, S, M (1 drop of devil blood or 1 dose of unholy water)

and

Quote:
You anoint a wounded creature with devil’s blood or unholy water, giving it fast healing 1. This ability cannot repair damage caused by silver weapons, good-aligned weapons, or spells or effects with the good descriptor. The target detects as an evil creature for the duration of the spell and can sense the evil of the magic, though this has no long-term effect on the target’s alignment.

There is no reason for a Paladin to have the unholy water. The devil blood might be available, but probably only right after killing a devil. And honestly, if a Paladin carries around a vial of devil blood to cast this spell, then they're probably doing a few other amoral things they shouldn't be doing.

Also, it probably does bolster the armies of hell, at least a little bit for a short time.


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If I discovered you owned a vial of tiger blood in real life I might think you were a bit peculiar, but I wouldn't think you were evil.

It seems to me like any intelligible theory of good and evil is going to have to center around hurting and helping people, making people's lives healthier, happier, more prosperous, and so on and avoiding the reverse.

Simple possession of devil blood doesn't seem plausibly evil. A rule that said "Devil blood has spooky mystic radiation and anyone who carries or uses it turns evil and starts hurting people" would be different, but we don't have a rule like that, so it ends up being very difficult to see what is so evil about Infernal Healing (especially given that it literally saves people's lives).


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If one wishes to find glitches in the Paladin Code, then look to philosophy, especially the trolley problem or other moral dilemmas.

Example: Monster headed out of cave lair will run past hiding Rogue (who is unusually enough an innocent soul) and go kill two children. Paladin has option to drop boulder in front of cave, but the the Rogue will be trapped with monster, found, & killed.
Can a Paladin make that trade?
What is it Cap said? "We don't trade lives."
But what if it's a whole orphanage?
How about if the Paladin is in the Rogue's position? If Seelah can close the cave, but has to trap herself in, is she obliged to trade her one life for those two (or more)? Isn't she?
Now here we all are talking about it objectively & rationally, but a typical Paladin might be (arguably should be) using their faith to determine the answer. Right? But who's to say what their faith (a horribly messy word already) tells them since their gods are game constructs? I lean toward thinking a Paladin should believe that right actions will prevail, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. Faith is intrinsically tied to hope & certainty, so maybe even phrasing a situation as hopeless is wrong when talking about a supernaturally powered PC. Heck, maybe a Paladin would just pray when it's not obviously a combat situation!
I hope the Phylactery of Faithfulness remains in PF2!
Ooh, or maybe a Paladin feat that does the same thing!

Speaking of all these lives being balanced against each other (a dubious thing to do already), a Paladin in a setting with a verified afterlife might not see lives being as important as souls.
Soul > Life, as in Eternity > Lifespan
By our standards, this can lead to some disturbing trade-offs.
Can our moral compasses even adjust to such a warped reality?

This ties to Infernal Healing, an Evil spell with a mostly good use (caps & lack of caps intentional). If IH brings an Evil taint into the world, it could be a literal Devil's Bargain. We don't (and I'd say shouldn't) have rigorous mechanics about the ebb & flow of Evil & Good essences, but for the Paladin (and Good domain Clerics, etc), this spell toys with Evil in a world where "evil" isn't just humanity's descriptor, but an actual phenomenon. Mundane worries do not balance with soul-tainting essences, and someone with faith in Good should have faith that another route will work out better in the end (whatever that means).
I don't actually accept that a Paladin would be walking around with an Infernal Healing Wand.
"What does this do?"
"It heals people of their wounds."
"Oh, good."
"No, evil. It channels evil energy into the person and--"
*snap* "Whew, thanks for the warning."
"Bu-bu-buh..."
(As a GM I would either reward XP or have a pro-good church reimburse them for the lost treasure.)

Evil/Good essences brings us to the nature of morality itself.
Is morality tied to well-being or to divine edict or something else? And whose view of well-being at what scale? And whose version of whose divine edicts?
In our world, this multi-layered quandary defies consensus, yet in a game setting where good & evil are detectable essences w/ objective norms, which is it? Classic question remodeled: Did the gods define/create goodness, or did they align with a concept or existing essence of goodness inherent in the cosmos? And the other alignments?

So yeah, debugging the code requires knowing the system parameters...and GMs are generally going to want options there. Maybe it'd be best to present the Golarion version, but with some homebrew options alongside.

Scarab Sages

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

The other consideration is 'What is Innocent?'

Is it 'Innocent by a jury of one's peers'?

Is it 'Innocent by de facto ruling of a soveriegn leader'?

Is it 'Innocent by virtue of lack of knowing any better'?

Is it 'Innocent because the player/GM doesn't want to deal with the alternative'?

Innocent is a VERY loaded word, and if we go whole hog with it, then there WILL be people who will take the 'law enforcement' stance on this.

"Welll... they're 'Innocent' ...because they got off on a technicality. We'll keep watching them until they screw up and then we'll throw the book at them."

...I've heard this mentality from members of law enforcement AND the general community, and it's a big common trope out there...

...and at the same time we have people IRL that have been incarcerated for a good chunk of their natural lives because law enforcement was 'darn tooting sure' they were 'NotInnocent' and made it happen when the reality was the person in question was 'VeryInnocentAndFramedUp'.

I appreciate the idea that Paladins shouldn't be held accountable EDIT: for 'Gotchas, but this mentality NEEDS to be addressed.

As well as a solid enough definition of what 'Innocent' is needs to be put in text.

I'm not sure your "sarcasm" is really working in this instance, because the word innocent isn't referring to a legal precedent in this case, but rather someone who literally has done nothing to deserve being attacked. Essentially bystanders, children, civilians, etc. More a situation of moral innocence rather than legal innocence.


R0b0tBadgr wrote:
Ring_of_Gyges wrote:
If we had some clear idea of what was supposed to be so bad about Infernal Healing, we might be more sympathetic to the Paladin who says "I'm sorry you're going to die, but I won't help you. I won't do evil things, even to help good people."

From the spells description:

Quote:
Components V, S, M (1 drop of devil blood or 1 dose of unholy water)

and

Quote:
You anoint a wounded creature with devil’s blood or unholy water, giving it fast healing 1. This ability cannot repair damage caused by silver weapons, good-aligned weapons, or spells or effects with the good descriptor. The target detects as an evil creature for the duration of the spell and can sense the evil of the magic, though this has no long-term effect on the target’s alignment.

There is no reason for a Paladin to have the unholy water. The devil blood might be available, but probably only right after killing a devil. And honestly, if a Paladin carries around a vial of devil blood to cast this spell, then they're probably doing a few other amoral things they shouldn't be doing.

Also, it probably does bolster the armies of hell, at least a little bit for a short time.

that's true, but a wand is a piece of wood, and sorcerer for example need no material component.

However, there is no need for material component. The spell is evil because it says [Evil]. That's enough reason.


Tallow wrote:
More a situation of moral innocence rather than legal innocence

BUT is there anyone truly innocent in the world? "Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone". These children might have at some point tugged on a cat's tail, thus causing harm to another living being for their own amusement, isn't that the epitome of all evil? How could a Paladin act, knowing not whether this moral quandary has a proper solution?

(That's sarcasm by the way)

Liberty's Edge

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Castilliano wrote:

I don't actually accept that a Paladin would be walking around with an Infernal Healing Wand.

"What does this do?"
"It heals people of their wounds."
"Oh, good."
"No, evil. It channels evil energy into the person and--"
*snap* "Whew, thanks for the warning."

I mean, really, this is how many of my neutral characters would react, too. Maybe some would keep it begrudgingly, but the concept of the evil mojo in the spell is very important.

Whether one sees it as 3.5's Lesser Vigor + ignorable "Evil" tag or as Infernal Healing depends heavily on how much the planar cosmology matters in the game. And as stated earlier, it's not easy to relate to that stuff with experience in the real world.

Scarab Sages

2Zak wrote:
Tallow wrote:
More a situation of moral innocence rather than legal innocence

BUT is there anyone truly innocent in the world? "Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone". These children might have at some point tugged on a cat's tail, thus causing harm to another living being for their own amusement, isn't that the epitome of all evil? How could a Paladin act, knowing not whether this moral quandary has a proper solution?

(That's sarcasm by the way)

I got the sarcasm... chuckle.

But on a serious note, this sort of thinking does happen when these discussions come up, as disingenuous as the thought process becomes. If people can't come to a general consensus about what innocent means in the context of the "innocent bystander" or "innocent children" then there really is no point in continuing the discussion, no?

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

One essential thing for me on this specific topic is that people clearly understand that innocent and Good are completely different things

Scarab Sages

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The Raven Black wrote:
One essential thing for me on this specific topic is that people clearly understand that innocent and Good are completely different things

I can agree with that.

An Evil Kobold Child running around picking mushrooms and minding his own business could be considered innocent.


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R0b0tBadgr wrote:
Ring_of_Gyges wrote:
If we had some clear idea of what was supposed to be so bad about Infernal Healing, we might be more sympathetic to the Paladin who says "I'm sorry you're going to die, but I won't help you. I won't do evil things, even to help good people."

From the spells description:

Quote:
Components V, S, M (1 drop of devil blood or 1 dose of unholy water)

and

Quote:
You anoint a wounded creature with devil’s blood or unholy water, giving it fast healing 1. This ability cannot repair damage caused by silver weapons, good-aligned weapons, or spells or effects with the good descriptor. The target detects as an evil creature for the duration of the spell and can sense the evil of the magic, though this has no long-term effect on the target’s alignment.

There is no reason for a Paladin to have the unholy water. The devil blood might be available, but probably only right after killing a devil. And honestly, if a Paladin carries around a vial of devil blood to cast this spell, then they're probably doing a few other amoral things they shouldn't be doing.

Also, it probably does bolster the armies of hell, at least a little bit for a short time.

Relax, you've nothing to worry about.

I'm only carrying around angel blood.

So obviously you can trust me.

I'm Good.

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