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


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Verdyn wrote:
<snip>

For those who joined late, this poster used a philosophical discussion and provocative language to derail this conversation earlier (though those posts have now been moderated, thanks mods!) Now they pose a philosophical question tangentially related to the current discussion doing little to tie it into the conversation, and frame it as a question to elicit responses regarding it, which would distract the conversation from its course and bring it closer to another derail. Food for thought.


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So some being offers the end of a bunch of bad things. But asks for the random half of those who would had died to die over the course of a year.

When looking at it from an utilitarian point of view, it is a perfectly reasonable exchange. Sure some will suffer, but the so many more will no longer suffer. Notice that its only half of those that would had died, not half of all the stuff that was removed.

However, if you read closer it seems pretty evil. Because it says "half of those that would had died without them intervening", but does not give a time frame. Which could easily mean that everyone dies after 1 year. In the best case, the numbers would ramp up, which would still result in everyone dying eventually.

This is why the phrase is, "the devil is in the details". This type of analysis is the entire basis behind the Good place, tallying up your point to determine whether you go to heaven or hell. People who saw that show know what the fault is and I don't want to spoil it, so I recommend watching.

***********************
However for the sake of discussion if anyone wants to skip watching that amazing show (I don't know why you would).

Spoiler:
The point system tabulates everything you do, and looks at what it takes to make each of those things. So using the computer consumes energy, and you need to burn fossil fuels to make that energy. You also need to make the computer itself, which damages the environment. While eating even the most sustainable of foods still requires that you drive/bike unless you make it yourself, which is also a problem.

In the end, even the best person would get labeled as evil no matter what good they do and get sent to hell.

This is the problem with looking at every single thing, and not judging based on the actions themselves. You will always find ways to make anything done by anyone evil. Someone donated a ton of money? They want to take control of the population. Someone is helping the homeless? They just want to feel superior. Someone is advocating for the environment? They clearly want to place people out of their jobs.

For every single good thing, there is a way to twist it into a negative. But twisting something into a positive? Well that is justifying being bad, which is itself bad. Almost as if evil is a black whole that cannot be escaped, despite all the stories of redemption speaking of the opposite.


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Just to make sure, people understand why I commented about it. That type of deal sounds exactly like something Asmodeus would make. "I will offer this benefit, but it will cost you all this suffering." The question itself leads into the problem of "At what point does doing good become evil?

* Is it when someone else dies? Can't be otherwise all champions would have fallen.

* Is it when someone suffers for a certain duration? Well can't be otherwise using jails would make people evil.

* Is it when someone feels bad? Well that would mean everyone is evil if they so much as give a misunderstood compliment.

Would Desna and Sarenrae be neutral deities because they released evil gods? Would neutral nature gods be evil because natural disasters kill people and animals? Would gods of luck be evil because they encourage gambling by their existence? Gods of farming by supporting eating animals? Heck by that logic Erastil as a god of hunting would stop being good because he supports going out hunting. Torag, would fall as excessive forging leads to pollution. Iomedae would fall for being having such a strong personality (one of the reasons why she is even a god). And it just doesn't end.

Eventually another writer will write something that can be seen as questionable for someone in the future, even if its perfectly reasonable now. People will complain about "trying to normalize something bad". But when looking at it from our current perspective its just a big whoop.


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Temperans gets it.

Though it wasn't meant to be as evil as all that. I just forgot to specify that the reaping was always counted year for year so the being doesn't collect his entire fee at once and make humanity extinct.

My thought was actually that with longer life spans the species actually develops faster and gets to a point where they already do most of what the being was doing and it hardly takes anybody after a while.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This thread keeps derailing to weird directions huh


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I keep trying to bring it back to Golarion deities.

Liberty's Edge

Evil, still Evil, always Evil.

Can we put the thread back on tracks now ?

Liberty's Edge

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MaxAstro wrote:

I think the easiest way to state it, is that it's easy to imagine a moral event horizon where one commits an act so evil that they immediately lose their good alignment, but hard to image a moral event horizon where one commits an act so good that they immediately lose their evil alignment.

Not that the second is impossible - just that examples are much harder to come up with.

I think it is because most of us see ourselves as Not Evil.

Nocticula, Sorshen and the ruckus about them not being Evil anymore shows that we have trouble with redemption without death.


We have a super hard time believing that a person who was evil or did something evil can ever change. Often saying that its all a ploy, or that it wont last.

Liberty's Edge

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Temperans wrote:
We have a super hard time believing that a person who was evil or did something evil can ever change. Often saying that its all a ploy, or that it wont last.

Or that they did not do enough to earn true redemption. We see death as the ultimate price and anything less can be seen as not enough.

And yes, they can do Evil again if they are not dead. But then so can anyone.

We are always tricked by our mind's ability to generalize.

Ultimately we have trouble separating the sin from the sinner.


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Temperans wrote:
We have a super hard time believing that a person who was evil or did something evil can ever change. Often saying that its all a ploy, or that it wont last.

And, I think because people do not want to wrongdoers to continue to exist without some form of obvious punishment. There is a cruel vindictiveness to 'justice' where suffering must be dealt back out to wrongdoers.

When dealing with deities I think it gets strange. Noticula was a Chaotic Evil demon lord for eons. So much evil and pain has been done in her name and she has done quite a bit personally, almost by definition. Having left her old life of sex murder behind, she's trying this new bohemian thing and it'll probably be a long time before her church is widely accepted--if ever.

Redemption = Death is...annoying in many respects. Anakin Skywalker gets a pass because Star Wars is morally simple, but he really shouldn't.

Making sure that a person suffers while doing their penitence only makes it harder for them to complete it. Of course, on the other hand, it feels bad when someone tries to stop being evil and it appears to happen without consequence.

Restorative justice is, like, hard man. Especially when people have varying strong opinions what constitutes justice.


Question then, do we agree that alignment is not determined by whether you got punished for doing anything (good, evil, lawful, or chaotic)? But that punishment might affect how a creature/god acts?

It's often the case that redemption comes after a creature is shown kindness and helped. Its rare to see it after they are punished.


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It seems rather obvious to say that punishment has no bearing on how something is aligned.

Good creatures could be "punished" by evil creatures for doing good. And evil creatures could be "punished" by good creatures for doing evil.

The morality of actions (within the context of Golarion's universe) would have to have implicit moral value as a part of the fabric of reality. Unfortunately that means that it can really be culturally or individually divined, the rules would apply equally to everyone everywhere.

And how is it decided what actions constitute what? That's decided by the overgod of your universe, you know, the GM.


Verdyn wrote:
If we can't agree on if an act that saves many but causes some smaller number a period of suffering is good, evil, or neutral then how can we discuss the morality of any act?

Lawful Good would add up the numbers and say it's a good act, Chaotic Good would go by what it feels in its heart and say it's an evil act, and Neutral Good is too busy dancing on the head of a pin to engage.


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the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Verdyn wrote:
If we can't agree on if an act that saves many but causes some smaller number a period of suffering is good, evil, or neutral then how can we discuss the morality of any act?
Lawful Good would add up the numbers and say it's a good act, Chaotic Good would go by what it feels in its heart and say it's an evil act, and Neutral Good is too busy dancing on the head of a pin to engage.

You're assuming there are numbers which compare well.

Lose half as many people per year to have half of them suffer a year.
It's a trade of life for torture and I doubt there's an equation acceptable to all parties.
How much torture is saving a life worth?
How severe is the torture?
Can those that live abide with others being tortured?
Who are the ones who are willing to 50/50 be tortured vs. survive? I think the answers would differ, especially when one factors in citizens already near death, for whom saving from one instance of death would add little time.

And the question feels posed at the community level, when it shouldn't be because those not involved in the life/torture trade shouldn't have a voice over the others. And Chaotic Good wouldn't abide any of this going down w/o consent by all parties with a stake in it. And there's an overall negative effect on the whole of the community, knowing torture looms. We're pitting "They're in a better place" vs. "Oh, no, they're likely (insert torturous image here)" w/ the latter unearned (at least in the baseline hypothetical).

This type of juggling of people is sometimes necessary, like with war...when it's nearly impossible to be both Good and effective! If one dwells on this type of setup long enough, one could "justify" the horrors of slavery by counting the benefits to the non-slaves; a sure sign that this type of trade is Evil!

ETA: Plus as others have mentioned, the hidden element of whether the suffering's necessary in order to rescue the others. Unless the entity can demonstrate the mechanism by which others' suffering => survival, many would assume evil intent even before balancing their personal choices.
And while I had been thinking a Lawful Neutral community might enforce this, I'm reconsidering that it'd be an evil policy if pushed from a higher authority. Maybe non-evil if agreed on by the whole community, with the option to exit if uninterested. Or maybe evil anyway.
Nonetheless, the entity juggling such an offer wreaks of ulterior motives, like sowing chaos or evil. If they had such powers, they should be exerting them with less fallout.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Since you guys seem determined to engage anyway...

It's definitely impossible to even start to decide the morality of the being in question without knowing if the suffering is necessary or not.

This is because causing unnecessary suffering is, obviously, evil. Duh.

You could argue about the morality of accepting the choice, for sure, but the morality of the being is impossible to lock down without that information because morality is not based on perception, otherwise criminals who hid their crimes successfully would not be evil.

Also duh.


MaxAstro wrote:

Since you guys seem determined to engage anyway...

It's definitely impossible to even start to decide the morality of the being in question without knowing if the suffering is necessary or not.

This is because causing unnecessary suffering is, obviously, evil. Duh.

You could argue about the morality of accepting the choice, for sure, but the morality of the being is impossible to lock down without that information because morality is not based on perception, otherwise criminals who hid their crimes successfully would not be evil.

Also duh.

Bringing this back to Golarion, we have to remember that we're working with that sort of meta-knowledge (so can judge) and the citizens of that world are not (yet must judge). With the Phylactery of Faithfulness now bumped up to Level 9 & Detect Evil (etc.) not working on mundane, everyday things, it must be hard for most people to navigate through all the nuances, especially with seductive evil having active agents at play. I can just imagine how different lectures on morals and ethics must be on a world where Evil & Good are tangible.

And then the lecturer might have been replaced by a shapeshifter who corrupts the whole school's concept, yet appeals to some other emotion (likely tied to self-interest) in order to feel good, hence be "Good".
Oh my.

ETA: And they can't simply point at a stat line to make their arguments that Asmodeus is Evil. He did after all rescue Cheliax from terrible times, even if I suspect he set up the chaotic situation in order to do so! Cue complex and sophisticated apologetics that most commoners can't unravel, yet which are oddly appealing... Heck, just appealing to a person's hate and mislabeling it "good" so they can keep their self-esteem has proven quite marketable for religion. And on Golarion, that wouldn't occur haphazardly, but with aeons old methods/tricks/phrasing passed down from fiends themselves.


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So, going ALL the way back to the OP's original statement. I can't remember the name of it right now but isn't there canonically a magical super artifact book that literally lists all the crappy, messed up stuff the good gods and forces of good have had to do, in the name of a better tomorrow? One that would magically break the faith of any good reader?

Edit: Found it! The Apocrypha to the Chronicle of the Righteous.


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Speaking of those books. The book of the damned in PF1 said that using the book made it so no matter what you did you would always go to an Evil plane. UNLESS a deity intervened.

This to me says that under most circumstance it is perfectly reasonable for an evil character to turn good, and thus go to a good plane. Which is supported by the various angels as previously discussed. But also that the gods are not affected by alignment the same way that mortals are. Given that they are able to step in to move a creature from an Evil plane to a Good one.

On another interesting note is the effect of time with how the gods perceive and do things. It is known that the Outer Gods are so ancient that they do not even understand what they do is evil. This leads me to believe that the older the god is the more difficult it is for them to not only change, but also the more difficult it is for them to understand their own morality. The Outer Gods would effectively be the equivalent of gods with dementia and a host of other mental problems; And if that is the case, than any gods including good gods could very well become equally insane if they live for long enough.

And yes gods can go insane as exampled by Nethys and a number of other gods.


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Just as a reminder, Nethys was actually mortal, and then went insane as part of his asention to divinity.

Liberty's Edge

Perpdepog wrote:
Just as a reminder, Nethys was actually mortal, and then went insane as part of his asention to divinity.

IIRC he got insane by perceiving all at once. It seems that this is enough to make even a deity permanently mad.

Liberty's Edge

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the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Verdyn wrote:
If we can't agree on if an act that saves many but causes some smaller number a period of suffering is good, evil, or neutral then how can we discuss the morality of any act?
Lawful Good would add up the numbers and say it's a good act, Chaotic Good would go by what it feels in its heart and say it's an evil act, and Neutral Good is too busy dancing on the head of a pin to engage.

Even Lawful Good would say it's Evil, since it hurts innocent people.

They might consider doing it for the Greater Good. But it is still Evil.


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The Raven Black wrote:
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Verdyn wrote:
If we can't agree on if an act that saves many but causes some smaller number a period of suffering is good, evil, or neutral then how can we discuss the morality of any act?
Lawful Good would add up the numbers and say it's a good act, Chaotic Good would go by what it feels in its heart and say it's an evil act, and Neutral Good is too busy dancing on the head of a pin to engage.

Even Lawful Good would say it's Evil, since it hurts innocent people.

They might consider doing it for the Greater Good. But it is still Evil.

Yep lawful good would probably have a debate about it and whether the ends justify the means. I can specially see it with groups like crusaders were they would love to take any advantage vs evil they can get.


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The Raven Black wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
Just as a reminder, Nethys was actually mortal, and then went insane as part of his asention to divinity.
IIRC he got insane by perceiving all at once. It seems that this is enough to make even a deity permanently mad.

Exactly my point, there is so much stuff going on in the universe that just from learning it made a god contemplate just destroying everything. It really feels like one of the reasons why Nethys doesn't destroy everything is that he values knowledge too much to ever actually destroy it.

Its probably also a large reason as to why Tabris got expelled from heaven for creating the book of the Damned. Bet he was already on thin ice from the apocrypha in the chronicles of righteousness and all the outer god stuff in concordance of rivals.

Silver Crusade

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Wow, you mean that Paizo's definitions of Good and Evil aren't complete enough that they actually leave places where particular actions are unclear? WOW!!! What INCREDIBLE laxness on Paizos part. I mean, sure, some very, very smart people have spent lifetimes trying (and failing) to come up with acceptable definitions of Good and Evil that apply in all cases. Is THAT an excuse for a game company to not solve a philosophical problem that we know has occupied minds for millenia? Of COURSE not.

I need way more drugs for this current sophomoric (to be generous) argument about good and evil to be remotely interesting. Verdyn is just trolling. Ignore him.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think there is one thing people miss about objective alignment:

Trolley problems and such aren't part of what is counted as objective alignment.

See, objective alignment isn't "Every action's good/evil value is inherent". It is "Some people are objectively good, some people are objectively evil, some acts are always good and some are always evil. The actions that aren't always good or evil depend on context, intent, outcome and such".

So when it comes to trolley problem, same exact action can be good, evil, chaotic or lawful depending on person doing the choice. Because fact is, in D&D objective alignment, torture no matter what is always evil. Altruism is good. Killing depends on context. Utilitarian thought experiments can't be answered with "this is objectively good or evil" because they are designed to be impossible questions, so they don't belong to list of "this is easy choices for your character to avoid".


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Kasoh wrote:
Temperans wrote:
We have a super hard time believing that a person who was evil or did something evil can ever change. Often saying that its all a ploy, or that it wont last.

And, I think because people do not want to wrongdoers to continue to exist without some form of obvious punishment. There is a cruel vindictiveness to 'justice' where suffering must be dealt back out to wrongdoers.

When dealing with deities I think it gets strange. Noticula was a Chaotic Evil demon lord for eons. So much evil and pain has been done in her name and she has done quite a bit personally, almost by definition. Having left her old life of sex murder behind, she's trying this new bohemian thing and it'll probably be a long time before her church is widely accepted--if ever.

Redemption = Death is...annoying in many respects. Anakin Skywalker gets a pass because Star Wars is morally simple, but he really shouldn't.

Making sure that a person suffers while doing their penitence only makes it harder for them to complete it. Of course, on the other hand, it feels bad when someone tries to stop being evil and it appears to happen without consequence.

Restorative justice is, like, hard man. Especially when people have varying strong opinions what constitutes justice.

The problem with Redemption = Death is that it's used less to redeem the villain and more to avoid the sticky issue of what to do with the villain after he survives nearly trying to destroy the world so it often ends up contrived.

As an extreme example, if Hitler said sorry about the Holocaust and surrendered to the Allies at the end of WWII what would have happened to him? Most likely he would still have been executed. (How'd that be for the end of a redemption arc?) In writing we also know the redemption is genuine. For all anyone knew Darth Vader weighed his options and decided killing the Emperor was the best way to save his own skin, but we as the viewer know it was an honest redemption.

And then you get into what redemption means. If the villain decides to end his villainy and lead a life as a 9-5 office worker is it wrong to punish him even if he has no intention to do evil again? It's harder emotionally to rip a person who once did evil out of a quiet relatively happy life but just brushing over the fact he once tried to destroy the world is just as wrong. Once again using the Holocaust as an example Germany still prosecutes anyone who worked at a death camp. There's no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity. The 90 year old retirees are no threat to anyone, but allowing the crime to overlooked is considered unacceptable.

Also with the whole redemption requires hard work, at the end of the story the world is no longer in danger. The villain can never save the world to offset the near destruction he caused because there is (hopefully) a happily ever after and not another world destroying threat to protect against. How much community service does it take to offset near genocide? If littering is the next biggest issue the world faces how is the villain supposed to redeem himself?

Redemption = Death avoids all of this. The price is payed. The messy bits skipped over. The villain realizes his mistakes and redeems himself with one big act of selflessness.

On a different topic, is it ever good to submit to evil? As an absurd example if the neighboring country demands a tribute of 1 gold coin a year or it will declare war? 1 gold coin is negligible and a war would cost countless lives. But that's still extortion which is a very serious crime. Considering the value of life is priceless is any amount of extortion that doesn't cause serious economic hardship worth violence? If paying the villain off ends a war and prevents another war is it wrong to pay him off? (There's probably some Demon or Daemon out there who particularly enjoys this thought experiment.)


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Avoiding entirely real world examples, as our world exists outside of objective morality, we can look at Sorshen, the former Runelord of Lust and now Wizard-in-Chief Lady of Eurythnia of New Thassilon.

Sorshen is likely to have committed real crimes against her subjects while acting as Runelord of Lust. We know only a few specific crimes honestly, but enchantment specialist with an evil alignment is probably going to get up to some things Paladins would frown upon.

However, these crimes were done 10,000 years ago. After Earthfall, Sorshen was essentially imprisoned in solitary confinement. She was passively aware of the time going on and during this 10k time out, she decided it wasn't a good idea to be evil anymore and her alignment changed from evil to neutral.

As far as the universe/Pharasma is concerned, she's good to go. Off to Maelstrom/Axis/whatever she goes.

Most people alive have no real issues with Sorshen. She's just another Geb, Nex, or other powerful wizard who serves as chief of state of a small city-state.

However, out of universe observers (like players) took umbridge with this, because...she wasn't punished enough? For things that weren't even done against them. She was perceived to have gotten away with it. One might argue that isolation for 10,000 years is probably enough punishment for any mortal crime, but no authority assigned such punishment and finding redemption through self reflection isn't satisfactory?

Players also just want to murder anyone who might be more powerful them, as only people who have more levels than they do can call them to task for their usually awful behavior. But that's not really about deities.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Like thinking Sorshen isn't punished enough itself isn't that bad, its pretty reasonable thought. I think the issue is assuming that setting is making moral judgement that Sorshen doesn't "deserve punishment" because she was allowed to became CN :p Like no, she very much would deserve punishment, but who is going to punish her and why?

Like Sorshen and Nocticula are very much case of "It is what it is, aka they didn't want to be evil so they stopped being evil". From objective good, less evil is always good. Wanting them to pay reparations or get justice for their past victims is honestly more of Lawful or Chaotic act than inherently good.


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I mean, the point of Pharasma's judgement at the end of the river of souls is not to reward or punish people for their actions, the entire point of mortal life in the Pathfinder universe is to sort the different aligned energies to bolster the outer planes against the corrosive effect of the maelstrom.

Whether or not a very LE person would enjoy being a devil after a period of time is irrelevant, the point is "well, they have LE energy so to hell they go."


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Also you normally don't keep your memories when you die and essense is used to create an outsider.

There are ways to keep your memories. But yeah it is not normally the case.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
The problem with that to my mind - purely from a perspective of trying to run an interestingly complex game - is that it reduces all Evil to Chaotic Evil.

This is a minor problem I have with the cosmology too. Sometimes it feels like in portrayal, LE/Hell ends up feeling like CE/The Abyss with a slightly different coat of paint, because Lawful tenants like loyalty, honesty, stability and tradition tend to get pushed to the side in favor of emphasizing traditional evil. So we end up with this sort of odd (imo) dichotomy where lying, cheating, backstabbing and betrayal end up being defining features and the assumed primacy of law and order is really just a veneer.

Liberty's Edge

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Squiggit wrote:
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
The problem with that to my mind - purely from a perspective of trying to run an interestingly complex game - is that it reduces all Evil to Chaotic Evil.
This is a minor problem I have with the cosmology too. Sometimes it feels like in portrayal, LE/Hell ends up feeling like CE/The Abyss with a slightly different coat of paint, because Lawful tenants like loyalty, honesty, stability and tradition tend to get pushed to the side in favor of emphasizing traditional evil. So we end up with this sort of odd (imo) dichotomy where lying, cheating, backstabbing and betrayal end up being defining features and the assumed primacy of law and order is really just a veneer.

Evil is Evil, sure.

But the rigid system of Hell is something no Demon could ever stomach. They do not want rules they can twist to get what they want. They want absolute freedom to do what they wish.

And no Devil could tolerate the Lawlessness of the Abyss. Because they base their existence on there being an order they can use to get what they want. Not on a free for all where anything could happen and ruin their schemes.

But since PCs usually meet them as to the death opponents because Evil, the differences can get lost in translation.

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