Alignment Damage and "Detect Evil"?


Rules Discussion


Okay, so first off - this has probably been discussed before so feel free to link me elsewhere.

In PF2 there is a cantrip Divine Lance. a Cleric with a Good God can cause Good damage. This spell does no damage if the target isn't evil, right?

So why restrict spells such as Detect Alignment (it's uncommon) if it's trivial for good clerics to find out the alignment of some ne'er-do-well NPC?

Since the spell is harmless against non-evil people, can it be considered evil to use it against unknown people?

Help me out here. I'm coming from 5E which has a very healthy downgrade of the detect evil shenanigans in that only high level Clerics and outright fiends register on the corresponding radar. That is, while alignment technically exists, 5E has ensured there is no way to separate one regular human from another just based on alignment.

I would like to ask: what is the RAI here?

AFAIK even a level 1 human can be Evil, on the scale where good damage deal visible damage (=can kill the NPC).

On one hand, that Detect Alignment is Uncommon tells me the devs might be saying "it's up to the GM and the campaign".

But if other spells and effects make it easy to separate the evils and the non-evils into different groups, I'm like "what's the point?"

Again, if this is a very beaten and very dead horse, feel free to link me to some dev tweets or forum posts or blog diaries or whatever! Thank you


Zapp wrote:


I would like to ask: what is the RAI here?

PS. I'm specifically and solely interested in PF2 here. I don't care what went down in PF1. Thanks.

Dark Archive

Where does it say the target doesn't take damage if its good?


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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Is Divine Lance The New Detect Evil

All four pages!


Alignment damage only applies to opposite so if damage is good only effects evil vice versa. If damage if lawful only affects chaos and vice versa.

Shadow Lodge

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Offhand, I'm guessing it is considered rude to use an attack cantrip on everyone you meet...

Likewise, being 'evil' isn't generally illegal (selfish gain is pretty much the cornerstone of capitalism), so in any civilized realm, this technique will probably be considered 'assault' or 'murder' (depending on how well you rolled).

The Exchange

Evil is defined in part by PF as "Your character has an evil alignment if they’re willing to victimize others for their own selfish gain ..." (p29 CRB). This does not mean that all evil people are killers or even violent criminals (e.g. serial pickpocket, con artist, etc.)
It is NOT immediate intent

Casting a spell that could very well kill that person means these individuals would be given the death penalty for being a pickpocket/career criminal (not jail, not a fine, - death).

In addition, casting an attack spell at a person who has done nothing at the time just to see what would happen ... (career criminal is playing hide-and-seek with his kid and a paladin blows him away in front of the kid since the Paladin was just "checking")

Cue Dirty Harry theme

Prior thread mentioned has a lot of discussion


Taja the Barbarian wrote:
Likewise, being 'evil' isn't generally illegal (selfish gain is pretty much the cornerstone of capitalism), so in any civilized realm, this technique will probably be considered 'assault' or 'murder' (depending on how well you rolled).

Tell that to my player of a Cleric of Sarenrae!

You might think that surprising for a deity described as a neutral good champion of Compassion and Peace.

But check out its anathema in PF2: "fail to strike down evil"

If the game does not meaningfully distinguish between a selfish level 1 human (yet no murderer) and, a fiend from the pits of hell, then... what?

Failure to cleanse the streets of people with Evil alignment is considered blasphemous? As if you were the worst kind of (l)awful good Paladin?!

Need guidance on RAI...


CrystalSeas wrote:

Is Divine Lance The New Detect Evil

All four pages!

Thank you!

Does it lead anywhere or is it just arguing back and forth?

Edit: quickly scanned pages 1 and 4, didn't see any dev input.


Probably won't see dev input on this until they decide they want to errata or faq how these work, and then you will see it as errata or faq, not an off-hand forum post.


Paradozen wrote:
Probably won't see dev input on this until they decide they want to errata or faq how these work, and then you will see it as errata or faq, not an off-hand forum post.

I understand you think it's errata-level material; but I think there's a considerable risk with that idea - namely that it will be a very long time before the matter gets resolved.


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I think the question the devs need to ask themselves:

Was it a good idea to offer up "pure" alignment damage at a low level?

I mean, make it half bludgeoning, half alignment and problem solved.

If pure alignment damage only appeared after, say, spell level 5, it would be restricted to fairly high level heroes, when the business of ordinary townsfol have ceased to be a concern. After all, few or no "starter town" NPCs will be much higher level than maybe 4-5; and by level 9 that sort of foe no longer yields any XP.

Any foe at level ten and up is sufficiently powerful that detecting its alignment likely is a non-issue. Or that it has access to masking magic.

The Exchange

Now I am tempted to create a Dirty Harry Cleric who says "Do you feel lucky, Punk?" when he walks through the village deity-slapping everyone he meets. Or a Gordon Gekko businessman who deity-slaps anyone who is not willing to victimize someone for their own selfish gain (greed is good)

The devs almost certainly thought that this spell would be used with outsider/undead lore to detect alignment or in an hostage situation where the hostage should not be killed. Any other time, the problems with performing an unprovoked Attack (it has that trait) should not need an errata.

Now, I agree that the anathema definition is a problem


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I think the issue here is with the interpretation of the phrase "fail to strike down evil." and with assuming, as many have (in my opinion incorrectly done) for years, that doing 'bad things' is immediately excused if you are doing them to 'bad people'.

That is to say that casting a spell that is designed to kill, even though it is "harmless" to certain folks is an attempt to kill. The excuse of "it only hurts bad guys" doesn't work because the good guys aren't moralistically allowed to kill - what makes you "good" is being different than "evil" so... y'know, maybe not serial killing?

And the the "but my deity says I have to!" line of thought: "strike down evil" is not necessarily synonymous with "kill evil." Foiling evil plots, bringing villains to justice of a kind that doesn't involve death, turning the heart of an evil person so that they are no longer evil, all of those are striking down evil. Plus, your deity knows that you don't know everything, so you're not going to be held accountable for their being evil going on that you don't know about, aren't anywhere near, or otherwise have no actual capability to do anything but fail to strike down - probably won't even fault you if you make your best effort and come up short, so long as you keep at it - just the cases in which you had a clear chance to do something about some evil and choose not to or made a bad effort at it.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'd argue that "throwing magical bolts of deadly energy at people to determine if they're a good person" isn't really a Good action. In fact, in terms of the laws of most civilized areas, I'd assume doing so would be considered at minimum assault and lead to the perpetrator being thrown in jail.

Look at it this way, there are plenty of horrible people in the world who haven't committed horrendous enough acts to get themselves thrown in jail. Do they deserve death?

Liberty's Edge

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thenobledrake wrote:
I think the issue here is with the interpretation of the phrase "fail to strike down evil." and with assuming, as many have (in my opinion incorrectly done) for years, that doing 'bad things' is immediately excused if you are doing them to 'bad people'.

In the case of a follower of Sarenrae, it’s not a matter of being “excused” id if you do bad things to bad people, it’s literally your duty to do one particular bad thing to bad people, i.e. striking them down. If you fail to do so you fail Sarenrae.

Quote:
And the the "but my deity says I have to!" line of thought: "strike down evil" is not necessarily synonymous with "kill evil."

Likewise “kill evil” is not necessarily synonymous with “end the life is evil beings. Putting on a really funny standup act before an evil-aligned audience is also killing evil.

Liberty's Edge

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someweirdguy wrote:
I'd argue that "throwing magical bolts of deadly energy at people to determine if they're a good person" isn't really a Good action. In fact, in terms of the laws of most civilized areas, I'd assume doing so would be considered at minimum assault and lead to the perpetrator being thrown in jail.

An act being criminal doesn’t necessarily correspond to its being evil. Sometimes people are thrown into jail for good acts.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I can't find where it was posted, but I remember the devs talking about anathema being in order of importance. Allowing and evil person to be redeemed is more important than striking down evil to Sarenrae.

Someone could be working towards redemption and still register as evil, so blasting them and saying see they are evil would go against the higher anthema.


Emeric Tusan wrote:

I can't find where it was posted, but I remember the devs talking about anathema being in order of importance. Allowing and evil person to be redeemed is more important than striking down evil to Sarenrae.

Someone could be working towards redemption and still register as evil, so blasting them and saying see they are evil would go against the higher anthema.

Thank you


thenobledrake wrote:
And the the "but my deity says I have to!" line of thought: "strike down evil" is not necessarily synonymous with "kill evil." Foiling evil plots, bringing villains to justice of a kind that doesn't involve death, turning the heart of an evil person so that they are no longer evil, all of those are striking down evil. Plus, your deity knows that you don't know everything, so you're not going to be held accountable for their being evil going on that you don't know about, aren't anywhere near, or otherwise have no actual capability to do anything but fail to strike down - probably won't even fault you if you make your best effort and come up short, so long as you keep at it - just the cases in which you had a clear chance to do something about some evil and choose not to or made a bad effort at it.

I have a Cleric of Sarenrae on my campaign and this is exactily what he is doing, stoping evil doesn't mean going all Punisher style.

The Exchange

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Your first line in your original post

"Okay, so first off - this has probably been discussed before so feel free to link me elsewhere."

That was done. In the linked thread you can see months and months of discussion, flagging of posts for dev input, etc. In other words, this discussion has been ongoing and starting another thread will not get dev attention.

It has been pointed out that requesting dev input for bizarre niche cases (going around and attacking every person you meet to determine if they evil because your interpretation of an anathema says you need to do it) is not an effective use of time. Paizo resources dev activity are limited

Your responses have been offensive because you tell people they are "snark(y)" when they tell you that you are beating a dead horse and they have pointed you to the thread which proves it

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

Removed some posts and their replies. Avoid having back and forth arguments. If the question has been asked before, the best you can do is point this out and give the resources available to the question.

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