Opinion: the ‘good’ gods of Golarion are not perfect


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I'm using my free will to skip over large sections of this thread. Can we please return our conversation to Pathfinder's Pantheons? That was much more interesting to me. I want a thread where James Jacobs gets so intrigued that he can't help but give us his opinion on something.

One of the thoughts that I have had on various good gods that have a bad rep: my thought was that (in addition to occasional bouts of writer-created lore inconsistency) we could actually be seeing the effects of gods being interpreted by their followers in the wrong way.

For example: The misogynistic view of Erastil could have come not from the god himself, but from some of his stodgy clergy.

Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

I'm using my free will to skip over large sections of this thread. Can we please return our conversation to Pathfinder's Pantheons? That was much more interesting to me. I want a thread where James Jacobs gets so intrigued that he can't help but give us his opinion on something.

One of the thoughts that I have had on various good gods that have a bad rep: my thought was that (in addition to occasional bouts of writer-created lore inconsistency) we could actually be seeing the effects of gods being interpreted by their followers in the wrong way.

For example: The misogynistic view of Erastil could have come not from the god himself, but from some of his stodgy clergy.

Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.

Speaking of this, it is exactly this type of situation that led Sarenrae to smite the city. They were blaspheming her name and making her look bad and so she wiped them from the face of the earth in her anger.

It also wouldn't be the first time that people mistook a god, or pushed their own goals as much as possible. I believe there is one Judge NPC in Magnimar that actively hides who he actually worship.


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Temperans wrote:
Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.
Speaking of this, it is exactly this type of situation that led Sarenrae to smite the city. They were blaspheming her name and making her look bad and so she wiped them from the face of the earth in her anger.

You'd think they could intervene a little more subtlely before it gets to the point of smiting cities.


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thejeff wrote:
Temperans wrote:
Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.
Speaking of this, it is exactly this type of situation that led Sarenrae to smite the city. They were blaspheming her name and making her look bad and so she wiped them from the face of the earth in her anger.
You'd think they could intervene a little more subtlely before it gets to the point of smiting cities.

Sarenrae kept sending messages and messengers. She only smote when they killed her herald.

Pathfinderwiki wrote:
Sarenrae continued sending portents and visions to her faithful in Gormuz during this period, but they were ignored or misinterpreted. She finally sent her herald Kohal to the people of Gormuz in -3923 AR, but they had been so corrupted that they destroyed him instead.

So yeah, Sarenrae and Gormuz is an example of "Try to help and redeem, but beware that not everyone can or wants to be redeemed."


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

I'm using my free will to skip over large sections of this thread. Can we please return our conversation to Pathfinder's Pantheons? That was much more interesting to me. I want a thread where James Jacobs gets so intrigued that he can't help but give us his opinion on something.

One of the thoughts that I have had on various good gods that have a bad rep: my thought was that (in addition to occasional bouts of writer-created lore inconsistency) we could actually be seeing the effects of gods being interpreted by their followers in the wrong way.

For example: The misogynistic view of Erastil could have come not from the god himself, but from some of his stodgy clergy.

Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.

An excellent use of free will and an even better question.

I am a huge old school Axis Mundi fan and a lot of my take on what 3.x and later deities relationship with their worshippers is colored by some things I picked up from that book and associated philosophies. If a god has a heretical splinter faction that makes its own changes to orthodoxy and the faction is not "dealt with" the god is going to continue to grant prayers and listen to petitioners and such and over time part of this heresy(note: NOT all of it word for word in a pedantic sense) will affect the god themselves and they will end up in part adding some(note: again, NOT ALL, and often not even in the way the heretics would think on a grand scale) of said heresy to their portfolio. Orthodox worshippers may ignore it utterly, but the god would be attached to their heretics as well as their traditional worshippers and represent them as ever.

This may result in a group of sexist jerks tainting Erastil himself with their views. It may also result in Erastil calling upon his traditional faithful to have a long, potentially painful discussion with their sibkin to eliminate something from the faith the god feels is altering his worldview too much.

It may also result in the god creating a mini me of himself that is a misogynistic jerk that only deals with that part of the faith and is reabsorbed into Erastil when that splinter faith dies out.

Or Erastil might shove his hoof directly into the rear ends of these guys with a direct warning from their deity to KNOCK IT OFF OR ELSE.


Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

I'm using my free will to skip over large sections of this thread. Can we please return our conversation to Pathfinder's Pantheons? That was much more interesting to me. I want a thread where James Jacobs gets so intrigued that he can't help but give us his opinion on something.

One of the thoughts that I have had on various good gods that have a bad rep: my thought was that (in addition to occasional bouts of writer-created lore inconsistency) we could actually be seeing the effects of gods being interpreted by their followers in the wrong way.

For example: The misogynistic view of Erastil could have come not from the god himself, but from some of his stodgy clergy.

Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.

It also begs the question of how much can a deity's worshipers influence that deity in turn. I don't recall if Golarion operates on the premise that gods are influenced by their faith, but IIRC there have been a few instances of that happening, such as with some of the old Azlanti gods, and I think it happened with Nocticula as well, at least in part?

Wayfinders Contributor

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Perpdepog wrote:
It also begs the question of how much can a deity's worshipers influence that deity in turn. I don't recall if Golarion operates on the premise that gods are influenced by their faith, but IIRC there have been a few instances of that happening, such as with some of the old Azlanti gods, and I think it happened with Nocticula as well, at least in part?

My favorite in-canon example of this was when a local Pharasmite priestess struck a deal with Artokkus Kirran that he could manufacture Sun Orchid Elixir so long as 1) he never sold it to a Thuvian and 2) he did it only until Thuvia stood on its feet. The greater church of Pharasma (and one assumes, the goddess herself along with her morrignas and other followers) accepted this agreement because Pharasma was the goddess of prophecy and she could foresee the day when Artokkus Kirran gave up his shop and died. Then prophecy broke, and Pharasma found herself with a problem. What to do with Artokkus?

Lost Omens Legends:
I was happy to solve this dilemma by providing Artokkus with a morrigna parole officer that he has to meet with every century or so.


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As I understand and recollect, officially the gods are not directly coloured by their followers' beliefs--that is, a heretical cult can never force their god's portfolio to shift by sufficiently popularizing their beliefs--however a god may well choose to shift their stance over time. A prime example of this happening in canon very recently is the heretical following of Nocticula opening up her view to the possibility of shifting to a less evil stance. If there was nothing in Nocticula that did not want to distance itself from evil and embrace a role as patron of outcasts, this heretical cult would not have had any effect (perhaps would not even have obtained spells), but by worshiping their goddess in this capacity, it essentially showed their support for her change in stance.

I suspect that gods are not prone to micromanaging their followers and will tolerate a great variety of interpretations, within reason. The list of edicts and anathema is relatively short and probably contains the god's most important teachings. Anything else, even if heretical to the god's established clergy, may well be considered by the god a valid interpretation of their will provided it does not run afoul of anything that is clearly opposed to the god. For example, Erastil allows followers who are not themselves good, provided they respect tradition and are not malicious.


Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

One of the thoughts that I have had on various good gods that have a bad rep: my thought was that (in addition to occasional bouts of writer-created lore inconsistency) we could actually be seeing the effects of gods being interpreted by their followers in the wrong way.

For example: The misogynistic view of Erastil could have come not from the god himself, but from some of his stodgy clergy.

Of course, this begs the question of how much bad press does it take for a god to decide that it is time to clear their reputation with direct visions, appearances and the appointing of a new set of champions to retell their story.

I think some nudging of their lay followers, priests and the like seems a good initial step. If things start getting really out of hand, perhaps servitors are put on the case and so forth. So as an example...at first it's dreams of a particular subject, and if that doesn't work may need Celestials to go be unsubtle.

Though it may be a scale thing as well; more established deities can likely afford to delegate unless something's going drastically awry, but a newer deity likely needs to be relatively pro-active getting the word out due a relative lack of influence perhaps.

Personally can see it as a good hook for a follower of Nocticula, especially if they run afoul of those who worshipped her before she became the Redeemer Queen.


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Honestly, my issue is that they're *too* perfect.

So there's an objective good and an objective evil. Check. For reasons that are, admittedly, fairly compelling, those have to track on a certain slice of widely-held current-day morality. Sure. I'm not a total fan of the message "We're totally getting it right (and earlier generations were all wrong where they disagreed with us, and later generations will *also* all be wrong where they disagree)" because it feels *hugely* entitled, but I get it, if only because this is the best guess we've got at the moment, and having "objective morality" point at basically anything else would be *so much worse*. So, okay. Fine.

Then we have the individual gods. Some of them are good. Some of them are neutral. Some of them are evil. Neutral gods are allowed to have personal behaviors and traits that are good and evil, and even have tenets that are a mix of good and evil, or whatever. Cool. Evil gods have personal behaviors that are generally evil, but also sometimes have interesting bits that are clearly neutral or good - not as individual actions, but as persistent features of the deity. They're allowed to have *tenets* that are neutral or good, too. They do generally *earn* that "evil" description, but a few of them do have one or two good tenets mixed in with the rest. They're only *mostly* evil.

For good gods, though, it feels like there's simply no flexibility. If you're a deity, then as soon as you trend good enough to be clearly more good than neutral, you're not allowed to have evil traits anymore. You're allowed to have flaws and weaknesses, but nothing that's *morally* objectionable according to Objective Good. ("Gets drunk and does stupid things" is a personal failing, but not necessarily a moral one.) You're not allowed to have *any tenets* that are "evil", according to Objective Good - not even relatively minor ones. You're not allowed to want to encourage any sort of antisocial or self-destructive behavior at all. As soon as you cross over into being Good, such impurities are removed from you, as if by cleansing fire.

I'm not even saying that I'd want anything that would be particularly politically divisive here. I mean, sure, let's not stick our hand into that viper's nest. There's plenty of relatively low-key evil things that we could pick that *won't* potentially inspire packs of intolerant/abusive (censored) to think that they have The Paizo Mandate to mistreat their fellow gamers, while also not being fundamentally horrible enough to be mutually exclusive with the idea of being on the whole good. I'm just saying that it presents a sort of weirdly oppressive idea of "good", when just generally being a good deity means that you're suddenly also forced into agreeing (at least at some level) with every part of Objective Morality.

Given the sheer amount of general emotional suck I see in this world from the fights between people who are increasingly ideologically polarized in all directions, it seems like a somewhat unfortunate message to send. I mean, I'm certainly not saying that we should have it be true for *every* Good deity. Most evil deities are pretty purely Evil, after all. I'd just like to see at least a bit more support at that level for the idea that someone can disagree with The One True Morality on one or more fundamental points and still (potentially) be a good person.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
A prime example of this happening in canon very recently is the heretical following of Nocticula opening up her view to the possibility of shifting to a less evil stance. If there was nothing in Nocticula that did not want to distance itself from evil and embrace a role as patron of outcasts, this heretical cult would not have had any effect (perhaps would not even have obtained spells), but by worshiping their goddess in this capacity, it essentially showed their support for her change in stance.

I feel like this is complicated because Noticula's redemption was brought to her own attention via a time loop. And if we hand wave that away as PC shenanigans She still was working on it for much longer than we have written evidence of the redeemer queen cult.

Until she changed alignment, she didn't grant spells to her heretical followers.

Overall though, you're right in that unless she wanted to change, Noticula wasn't going to change. I just don't think any of her followers being aware of her aims to change mattered.

The other notable changing of alignment we know of (Zon-Kuthon aside) is Lissala who was an Azlanti goddess of...something and was LN. By the time of Thassalon, she had shifted to LE, which was a deliberate rebranding, I think more than an influence by evil followers.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Kasoh wrote:

Until she changed alignment, she didn't grant spells to her heretical followers.

She was granting spells to her heretical followers before she changed alignment and became a deity. Those heretics weren't widespread, but the fact that she was granting them spells represents the fact that her change didn't happen instantaneously.

As for how and why she changed... we certainly imply that it could be because of time travel events in Return of the Runelords, but if your group doesn't have a heretical worshiper of Nocticula to make that happen, that's less appealing. It could instead be linked to Sorshen's story. The recent Owlcat video game of "Wrath of the Righteous" includes another way that could have been the seed for her change. It could have been something that was in the works far longer, as a side effect of her killing so many other demon lords and getting away with it might have started her thinking "maybe I'm meant for something more." And so on.

We have deities shifting alignment now and then, but as with all things deity-adjacent, those elements are story based, not rule based. And as such they can all be different.

But personally, I really do like the idea that the actions of a few worshipers or a single sect or even a single cleric might trigger a change in their deity. The idea that a PC in someone's group was the catalyst to set Nocticla's alignment shift in motion is as epic and compelling a story as the old "mortal challenges and defeats a god" trope. More compelling, in fact. And compelling stories make for compelling game play.

Wayfinders Contributor

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Thank you for sharing that story, James. I enjoyed it very much!

Hmm


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I enjoy the Golarion pantheon so much.

I have no idea how to do it, but I wish I could come up with a way to run a campaign at the rarefied levels where direct deity conflicts/interactions/alliances was the focus.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
Kasoh wrote:

Until she changed alignment, she didn't grant spells to her heretical followers.

She was granting spells to her heretical followers before she changed alignment and became a deity. Those heretics weren't widespread, but the fact that she was granting them spells represents the fact that her change didn't happen instantaneously.

Ah. I thought that Ayavah's backstory made mention of the fact that as their redeemer queen cult had no divine casters and lost people due to it that it was a more wide spread phenomenon.


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James Jacobs wrote:
But personally, I really do like the idea that the actions of a few worshipers or a single sect or even a single cleric might trigger a change in their deity. The idea that a PC in someone's group was the catalyst to set Nocticla's alignment shift in motion is as epic and compelling a story as the old "mortal challenges and defeats a god" trope. More compelling, in fact. And compelling stories make for compelling game play.

I like the idea of such actions triggering a change as you suggest, but not so much the idea of such heresies inevitably changing the deity unless curbed, as I read Freehold's approach above.

One is a compelling character driven story, the other just a sort of automated process.


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The idea that a deity might see something and decide to go along with it leading to a bigger change is super compelling.

The idea of gods just changing randomly because of who is worshiping sounds ripe for exploit. In fact just imagine what the evil gods would do if they manipulated entire populations. There would easily be no more good gods.


Temperans wrote:

The idea that a deity might see something and decide to go along with it leading to a bigger change is super compelling.

The idea of gods just changing randomly because of who is worshiping sounds ripe for exploit. In fact just imagine what the evil gods would do if they manipulated entire populations. There would easily be no more good gods.

Sounds like the plot of Hogfather.


Temperans wrote:

The idea that a deity might see something and decide to go along with it leading to a bigger change is super compelling.

The idea of gods just changing randomly because of who is worshiping sounds ripe for exploit. In fact just imagine what the evil gods would do if they manipulated entire populations. There would easily be no more good gods.

It would certainly make the stakes for allowing or stamping out heretical sects (possibly even non-evil heretical sects) much higher and more immediately intelligible to the modern player. I don't think I would want it for the Golarion gods because their present state is far more fascinating to me, but a setting of this nature would open up a host of interesting questions about the nature of divinity which might be fun to explore as a cleric or champion.

Silver Crusade

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Steve Geddes wrote:

I enjoy the Golarion pantheon so much.

I have no idea how to do it, but I wish I could come up with a way to run a campaign at the rarefied levels where direct deity conflicts/interactions/alliances was the focus.

Wizards of the coast had fairly good rules for exactly this in the pre Magic days. Worth looking at for inspiration if nothing else.

Silver Crusade

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Angel Hunter D wrote:
I like to differentiate gods like the pathfinder gods as "little g" gods as opposed to the "capital G" gods people tend to think of. Little g gods can also be characters, which suits the setting much better. Perfect, capital G gods are rather dull and don't tend to germinate the scale we need for adventures below the mythic level.

Tbh, it's what made a lot of the ancient deities interesting. They were not perfect. They were flawed like their followers.

Take Aphrodite; she's a goddess of war (Aphrodite Areia), beauty, civilisation (Aphrodite Pandemos), lust and one of the most important deities in the Gamelioi.

The Gamelioi being the Greek pantheon deities in charge of marriage: those being Zeus [serial cheater; god in charge of Xenia, the ancient Greek laws of hospitality and laws in general], Hera [epitome of jealous wife who takes out her husband's unfaithful behaviour out on everyone; goddess in charge of marriage, women and the sky], Aphrodite [only deity Zeus was ever really afraid of because he was so prone to lust, which she is in charge of; goddess of lust and procreation], Eileithyia [goddess in charge of childbirth] and Hymenaios [god of the marriage ceremony and bridal hymn].

3 of the main deities in charge of a smooth marriage canonically cannot keep their own marriages from being THE WORST! Zeus ate one his exes (see: story of how Athena came to be), Hera's jealousy over Zeus producing an offspring almost by himself result in Hephaestus (whom she hates, and he's a reeeeeally hateful god in a sort of Frankenstein's monster way [Hera is so full of anger that she hates things, including him; and he's similar in his hatred of everyone, but he's also hated for being a disabled god, which is pretty unusual]) and basically cause all humans are said to have lust, Aphrodite maintains dominion over a lot of people, and she plays with them like puppets canonically if they thwart her or don't praise her above and beyond normal.

Plenty of other ancient deities be like this too. The Morrigan (trifold goddess of ancient Ireland) a goddess of marriage and queenship (as well as war, life, death, women, prophecy and magic) was storied to once either have had a champion as either an incarnation of herself, or was as close to representative of herself as a mortal as possible, start a war over a bull because her husband thought his bull was nicer. It was a really nice bull, but that brown bull was really, really nice (she also stole that bull from her neighbouring kingdom).

Mythology is fun, and it's honestly the nice thing about not portraying deities as "perfect". Not having flaws makes for boring story telling, and honestly, it's not realistic even by mythology standards.

I like portraying deities as interfering a lot more than probably below mythic level canon. But I admit I was reading mythology before I came to tabletop gaming. If I'm gonna represent deities, it's more fun for me to portray them Iliad and Odyssey style than not. Deities interfering and thwarting each other like gamers at a tabletop (though, probably more Vampire: The Masquerade than Pathfinder or Starfinder) is my jam.

Sorry for late weighing in on these points.

Silver Crusade

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Cassi wrote:
. Deities interfering and thwarting each other like gamers at a tabletop (though, probably more Vampire: The Masquerade than Pathfinder or Starfinder) is my jam.

I'm not trying to muck up your jam, but my problem with that is that it is very easy to make the PCs just bit players in the NPC dramas and not the heroes of the story. At the very least, the PCs pretty much have to be demigods or the like if they're going to be anything but pawns.


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pauljathome wrote:
Cassi wrote:
. Deities interfering and thwarting each other like gamers at a tabletop (though, probably more Vampire: The Masquerade than Pathfinder or Starfinder) is my jam.
I'm not trying to muck up your jam, but my problem with that is that it is very easy to make the PCs just bit players in the NPC dramas and not the heroes of the story. At the very least, the PCs pretty much have to be demigods or the like if they're going to be anything but pawns.

Not necessarily. As long as the PCs still have agency, which they should, and have the ability to affect the world with that agency, then they have the ability to defy or go along with those NPC plots as they choose. Agency rather than mechanical power is more important in those kinds of stories and campaigns, and it's not like "little guy who thwarts much bigger, better guy" isn't one of the most archetypal kinds of story.

I've been in games like that--actually exactly like that because our characters discovered the people who kept trying to screw us around were themselves "people," and we were characters in a computer game--and it went well because the incredibly powerful NPCs could still lose, and w could still do what we liked.


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pauljathome wrote:
Cassi wrote:
. Deities interfering and thwarting each other like gamers at a tabletop (though, probably more Vampire: The Masquerade than Pathfinder or Starfinder) is my jam.
I'm not trying to muck up your jam, but my problem with that is that it is very easy to make the PCs just bit players in the NPC dramas and not the heroes of the story. At the very least, the PCs pretty much have to be demigods or the like if they're going to be anything but pawns.

I think figures like the Empyreal Lords, Archdevils, Demon Lords, etc. fill a good niche for this sort of story. They are deities in a lot of important senses, but are also level creatures with stats (theoretically at least). I think mediate a conflict between these figures is a pretty simple pitch for a lv20 Adventure in 2e if we get a ruleset to take the challenge threshold up to 30 (the upper limit of these sorts of creatures as I understand it).

Dark Archive

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My answer on "Are good guys not allowed to be nuanced and have really big evil traits?" is "Pretty much yeah".

Like in setting where there is "objective good" and not just "Good as in real life sense", there has to be difference between neutral that is super kind and nice and good aligned :p Nothing says neutrals can't be heroes, but good guys have to have incredible moral integrity to count as good. Good guy who tortures bad guy is probably neutral rather than good because in non nihilistic setting, objective good can't be a torturer.

(that said, even paizo gives good guys one consistent flaw of being merciless towards evil :p

This also goes to reverse. You can't have evil character that is genuinely altruistic but evil because they are incredibly cruel to demons :p Because objectively evil means character has to be incredibly malevolent.

LIke yeah, both objective good and evil CAN have some nuance, but the fact they have to be objectively good or evil means there are limits of how good evil can be and how evil good can be. Evil characters do have larger range of how good they can be compared to how evil good is allowed to be, but everyone who is mix of both is more of neutral really either way)


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CorvusMask wrote:

My answer on "Are good guys not allowed to be nuanced and have really big evil traits?" is "Pretty much yeah".

Like in setting where there is "objective good" and not just "Good as in real life sense", there has to be difference between neutral that is super kind and nice and good aligned :p Nothing says neutrals can't be heroes, but good guys have to have incredible moral integrity to count as good. Good guy who tortures bad guy is probably neutral rather than good because in non nihilistic setting, objective good can't be a torturer.

(that said, even paizo gives good guys one consistent flaw of being merciless towards evil :p

This also goes to reverse. You can't have evil character that is genuinely altruistic but evil because they are incredibly cruel to demons :p Because objectively evil means character has to be incredibly malevolent.

LIke yeah, both objective good and evil CAN have some nuance, but the fact they have to be objectively good or evil means there are limits of how good evil can be and how evil good can be. Evil characters do have larger range of how good they can be compared to how evil good is allowed to be, but everyone who is mix of both is more of neutral really either way)

The first portion reminded me of how many heroes in modern media are good, yet not Good. Often there's an inciting action (i.e. murder or something else incredible) that drives the hero to revenge, giving them (and us as sympathizers) an emotional excuse to break our everyday taboos. Yet often the heroes are simply not Good, i.e. James Bond who's often been labeled as Lawful Neutral on forums, For Queen & Country as it were. Of course others, mainly superheroes, do pursue Good, yet pay a steep price (& have to cycle through the same enemies, perhaps ultimately undercutting their efforts compared to a practical neutral hero). There's a reason Atticus Finch tops lists of best heroes.

Then there's the trick of making the antagonist far worse, which works well for anti-heroes, making them look great. Nazis, terrorists, and bigots make your neutral heroes shine like angels even as they slaughter (also arguably like angels!). Paizo, for all the accusations I see against them for toning down goblins & orcs, does not hesitate to unleash the apocalyptic cultist, nether spawn, or other grand evil, thereby giving us even better targets (by being worse).
Okay, I'll reel this in now. Cheers.

Liberty's Edge

Sanityfaerie wrote:

Honestly, my issue is that they're *too* perfect.

So there's an objective good and an objective evil. Check. For reasons that are, admittedly, fairly compelling, those have to track on a certain slice of widely-held current-day morality. Sure. I'm not a total fan of the message "We're totally getting it right (and earlier generations were all wrong where they disagreed with us, and later generations will *also* all be wrong where they disagree)" because it feels *hugely* entitled, but I get it, if only because this is the best guess we've got at the moment, and having "objective morality" point at basically anything else would be *so much worse*. So, okay. Fine.

Then we have the individual gods. Some of them are good. Some of them are neutral. Some of them are evil. Neutral gods are allowed to have personal behaviors and traits that are good and evil, and even have tenets that are a mix of good and evil, or whatever. Cool. Evil gods have personal behaviors that are generally evil, but also sometimes have interesting bits that are clearly neutral or good - not as individual actions, but as persistent features of the deity. They're allowed to have *tenets* that are neutral or good, too. They do generally *earn* that "evil" description, but a few of them do have one or two good tenets mixed in with the rest. They're only *mostly* evil.

For good gods, though, it feels like there's simply no flexibility. If you're a deity, then as soon as you trend good enough to be clearly more good than neutral, you're not allowed to have evil traits anymore. You're allowed to have flaws and weaknesses, but nothing that's *morally* objectionable according to Objective Good. ("Gets drunk and does stupid things" is a personal failing, but not necessarily a moral one.) You're not allowed to have *any tenets* that are "evil", according to Objective Good - not even relatively minor ones. You're not allowed to want to encourage any sort of antisocial or self-destructive behavior at all. As soon as you...

Which Evil deities have Good tenets ?


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Sanityfaerie wrote:
Some things which the quote function is not picking up right now, but represent the bulk of what I'd like to respond to.
The Raven Black wrote:
Which Evil deities have Good tenets ?

A quick survey of the core gods, other gods, and just for fun, the archdevils and demon lords shows... almost none. While there are a variety of respectable or at least not immediately evil tenets and anathema, including, "Act with dignity", and "[Do not] shirk your duties", there are only a very few which can really be construed as anything more charitable than 'non-evil' (in my half-baked opinion, anyway).

Of the core, it seems like the tenet most likely referred to is Lamashtu's edict to Bring Power to the Outcast and Downtrodden, which in isolation very much carries the ring of a noble and altruistic goal. I find it notable, however, that this edict is not to bring aid, which would already be suspect enough if it weren't immediately followed by the indoctrination of children and the destruction of beauty.

Among other deities, Walkena bids followers to oppose the exploitation of the Mwangi Expanse, which is surprisingly eco-friendly for an undead god, albeit somewhat transparently territorial more than altruistic.

The archdevil Dispater, who is unique among his peers in accepting non-evil worshippers who value absolute law, makes it anathema to his followers to betray a lover. These are the kind of evil-deity commandments I crave because they create a fascinating image of the deity's personality and readily offer interesting character conflicts.

In contrast with Lamashtu, Ardad Lili does bid you give aid to women who have been unfairly maligned. This is possibly the most unambiguously Good tenet I have seen yet in any evil deity's dogma. Certainly an evil follower could twist the apparent altruism of defending those unjustly defamed, but it strikes me as more akin to a duty to defend your own. Of course, I would be remiss to overlook that this aid is limited to one gender, preferring manipulation and seduction for others (not pictured in edicts).

Finally Baphomet has an anathema which stands out to me as somewhat unique in a game where character advancement often happens on the backs of many weaker monsters. Baphomet forbids followers to kill anything which cannot significantly harm them. There are a great many things they are not prohibited from doing to such creatures, and this is probably an expression of his preference to show mastery over beasts, so I don't imagine it for a moment to be an altruistic anathema, but it struck me as interesting.

Taken together, these examples represent... virtually no evidence at all of the claim that evil gods have more flexibility or permission to have Good tenets than good gods have with regards to Evil tenets. Certainly not evidence of something which seem genuinely altruistic, not merely a convenient means to further exploit or harm others. Even Arazni, the only evil deity I am aware of who allows good followers, asks nothing more altruistic of her followers than to survive by any means necessary and never create unwilling undead.

Furthermore, I think the original claim itself is fundamentally flawed and must respectfully disagree with OP that the gods of good are unduly restrained. The idea that evil gods are allowed to have more of a personality by being only mostly evil where good gods are forced only to be paragons of justice who are not allowed to do evil makes what I feel is a false equivalence between good and evil acts.

An evil creature which harms others nine times and helps others or has seemingly noble objectives once may easily be taking these actions motivated by self-interest or dedication to impersonal principle without concern for the well-being of those being helped. A good creature which helps others nine times and willingly commits an evil act once, on the other hand, shows that they are willing to abandon the welfare of others when it is convenient to them (mind you we have forsworn extenuating circumstances in the premise--they must be 'persistent features')

A creature can well struggle with being good on both the Good and Neutral side of the spectrum, but a good creature which consciously makes a habit of victimizing others does not show a genuine concern for others' well-being, or at the very least shows a moral mypopia more properly indicative of Neutral. There are many non-evil acts of selfishness (indeed, mundane goodness should not demand the denial of self) but an act of actual evil by definition involves bringing harm to others.

It is not because good gods aren't allowed to have fun and interesting moral failings that this debate rages (they clearly do and that's clearly favoured), it's because Good has different metrics of adherence than Evil. There are many ways to selfishly do good and very few to altruistically get away with evil (targeting evil creatures seeming to be one many will accept). A habit of petty good is not the same as a habit of petty evil.

EDIT--Minor addendum: the non-equivalence of Good and Evil is only one of the reasons why imagining Neutrality (and especially the champion tenets of Not Good or Evil) as a measure-for-measure balance between good and evil acts is fundamentally flawed from the get go.

Liberty's Edge

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I find it rather fascinating, and a bit odd, that deities can more easily change alignments than their outsider servants and are closer to fickle mortals on this point.

I think the 8 early deities will never change alignment though, seeing how they were created at the same time as the alignments (or shortly thereafter) and exemplify them. And Pharasma, by construction, is the epithome of True Neutral with all other alignments being defined by how they diverge from her mindset.

Now I think it easy to imagine that a once mortal deity (including those ascended from outsider status) can eventually change their alignment. Which IMO begs the question : what was the origin of deities that came after the first 9 but before mortals appeared ? And can those change alignment as easily as former mortals ?


Achaekek has changed alignment twice.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I don't think it's a bad thing that Good gods are held to higher standards than Evil ones, nor do I think we should expect symmetry there - it's the nature of good and evil. It's hard to be good and easy to be evil.

If someone spends their whole life as an upstanding citizen, donates to charity, does volunteer work, etc, and then one time murders a person in cold blood, we don't characterize them as "mostly good".

I would also like to restate that for a deity especially there's a big difference between their actions and their tenets. I think you could have a Good deity who personally mistrusts dwarves, but not one who extolls their followers to hate dwarves. The difficult part, of course, is that this is a god and a religion we are talking about, so it can be very hard to separate a deity's character from their tenets - after all, aren't the followers of a god typically going to try to emulate that god to some degree?


MaxAstro wrote:

I don't think it's a bad thing that Good gods are held to higher standards than Evil ones, nor do I think we should expect symmetry there - it's the nature of good and evil. It's hard to be good and easy to be evil.

If someone spends their whole life as an upstanding citizen, donates to charity, does volunteer work, etc, and then one time murders a person in cold blood, we don't characterize them as "mostly good".

I would also like to restate that for a deity especially there's a big difference between their actions and their tenets. I think you could have a Good deity who personally mistrusts dwarves, but not one who extolls their followers to hate dwarves. The difficult part, of course, is that this is a god and a religion we are talking about, so it can be very hard to separate a deity's character from their tenets - after all, aren't the followers of a god typically going to try to emulate that god to some degree?

The ease aspect reminds me of something I read in MtG stuff: "a thimble of wine in a barrel of sewage is still sewage, a thimble of sewage in a barrel of wine becomes sewage." To despoil or ruin is a lot easier than raising something above what it starts as.

So for the "seemingly pleasant person" example...that one act makes their situation going forward drastically different. Sure, there'll be those they've helped in the past saying how they seemed so nice, but that in itself is kind of part of it; the prior actions can be doubted as a long term ruse to get an opportunity than the end in itself.

As for the line between a deity's personal matters and what they espouse, it could be the tenets represent their own aspirations despite their nature...otherwise, it's somewhat hollow or hypocritical. Likely very pertinent to ascended mortals who recognise their own failings, but it can be the case for higher order outsiders perhaps.

Maybe that's why they'd grant favour to those upholding the tenets than simply trying to emulate them as an individual, as it'd encourage the former over the latter. Being a better person tends to require confronting own shortcomings, and there's only so far pushing it under the proverbial rug is going to get.

Though now wonder if a deity could have something akin to Impostor Syndrome. Doubt and uncertainty of being good enough certainly could apply to any that strive to not give into their failings. Granted, tricky to do well but...still, personally find it interesting.

Liberty's Edge

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SOLDIER-1st wrote:
Achaekek has changed alignment twice.

Good point about Achaekek. Twice ? I must have missed something. I thought they went LN to current LE. Or was there something in Azlant ?


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He didn't change alignment twice, but he went from LN to LE and a god of monsters, to LE and a god of assassins in his current guise after Starfall at some point.


The Raven Black wrote:
Good point about Achaekek. Twice ? I must have missed something. I thought they went LN to current LE. Or was there something in Azlant ?

Before. He was already LE by the time of Azlant.

It's technically possible the linked story is when he became LE, and thus he only has had one alignment change, but the description of him "becoming a mindless beast for eons to follow" leads me to believe that he had some other alignment for those eons (presumably CE), and then eventually regained his mind and became LE.

Of course, that story is technically just one myth among many, and so it's status as canon isn't ironclad.

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