Lost Omens & Moral Objectivism / Relativism


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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TwilightKnight wrote:
Personally, I think that is a bit too loose (or narrow?) with the rules. Alignment has always been a topic of much debate, but I think it would be a mistake to apply it to all of something. The key ideal has to be that while there can certainly be trends, alignment is an individual metric. Meaning that even if you consider drow or orcs or even devils/demons to be typically/generally/usually evil, it is not universally true. I don't think even Torag would support the wholesale slaying of any group because of preconceived notions. You would have to be fairly evil yourself to think that showing no mercy to the enemy of your people means that because drow, duergar, giants, and orcs are ancestral foes, that means every last one of them must be destroyed. It is certainly reasonable to be cautious or even distrustful of them, but to commit to pre-emptive genocide? I would never agree with that argument and would never reward such a soul with eternal bliss in heaven. YMMV

I wish I had phrased that better. When I typed that, I was mostly thinking of instances in Organized Play where people played loose with rules to portray pretty bad characters, observed how BobTheCoward tried to use innocuous, unrelated edicts of Torag to justify similarly bad behavior in a hypothetical character, and was reacting. I don't think Torag's attitude about genocide could really be in called into question by anyone who knows that god well. His edicts are incredibly bold, moreso than possibly any other good-aligned god, and as such, they carry a little more potential for misuse. So you want to represent a little more nuance when you write about them. So far, I think the vast majority of what's been written for him and dwarves in general for 2e has been really, really awesome. I think there are some oversights, however, which might lead new players to wrong conclusions about Torag without knowing any better: comparing feats like "Vengeful Hatred" with some of Torag's more strong-armed edicts about refusing mercy to enemies, and the animosity of some dwarves towards orcish people and giants. These individual pieces of the grander picture are each pretty complex, and require some learned perspective about Golarion's history and context to handle responsibly. So the discussion was about how we'd like to see dwarves and Torag explored in future books, that would make our own lives easier as GMs when breaking these nuanced subjects down for our own tables (which are really interesting!).

For clarification, summing up the original thread this one spawned from.


When considering the difference between ethical arguments in the real world versus in Golorian, I always think about the ethics of animal rights.

Erastil is a Lawful Good deity of hunting. Good Druids are fine wearing leather.

So it seems that in Golarion killing animals for food, fur, or leather is provably not evil.

That seems odd for a world where people can use magic to have conversations with those same animals.


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Killing and consuming creatures for sustainance, sapient or not, is neutral in universe. Considering mimics, while being horrible monstrosities, are neutral. They're not malicious, they're just hungry.


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Gisher wrote:

When considering the difference between ethical arguments in the real world versus in Golorian, I always think about the ethics of animal rights.

Erastil is a Lawful Good deity of hunting. Good Druids are fine wearing leather.

So it seems that in Golarion killing animals for food, fur, or leather is provably not evil.

That seems odd for a world where people can use magic to have conversations with those same animals.

It is worth noting that a druid's attitudes toward killing animals is no more relevant to morality than a farmer's. Druids have no moral compulsion not to kill animals, and even those belonging to an order which venerate animals specifically are not prohibited from hunting them for sustenance. I feel like the stereotype of a druid as a nature-loving hippie is a mistake--druids in general venerate nature, and nature-loving hippies certainly fit among their number, but the relationship between predator and prey is one of many cycles that druids venerate.

Aside from that, I'm not sure anyone has yet posited the notion that 'can I speak with it' is a grounds for considering a creature a moral entity. I would agree with you that the game treats killing non-sapient creatures, particularly out of necessity, as non-evil. In fact, aside from the 'provable' aspect, this contradiction isn't really significantly different from real life. There are many who would argue in good faith that to kill a non-sapient animal unnecessarily is inconsistent with many moral codes if you were to remove the somewhat arbitrary definition of 'sapience' from the picture.

However this is something of a distraction. As you may know, the discussion which spawned this thread involved treating orcs as humanoids with the mental and moral capacities implied by that tag*. I daresay it was not your intent to compare the morality of killing orcs to that of killing animals, but it is worth being aware of the very sensitive topics we skirt toward in the name of avoiding another alignment thread exploding into an early lockdown.

TL;DR - Most descriptions of morality in Pathfinder or D&D hinge upon sapience and, to some extent, innocence. Demons qualify for the former, most animals... probably qualify for the latter.... Also as a personal bugbear I don't feel like druids venerating nature should be tacitly conflated with an ignorance or rejection of the cycles of nature.

*"Humanoid creatures reason and act much like humans."

(I hope nobody here needs it explained how intentionally comparing slaying humanoids to slaughtering animals is a very poor look, but should the need arise, I must beg a more nuanced speaker than I to take the field.)

Silver Crusade

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It doesn’t.


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MadScientistWorking wrote:

Sorry, I did the stupid thing and forgot to mention I was talking about Aroden. I like Aroden as an NPC. I just don't get how neutral applies to him.

Undead are an interesting example because I don't know if its international or not but there's been a lot of non evil or simply benign undead in APs recently. Even going as far to mock the idea of PCs who refuse to interact with them and try to attack on sight.

Oh, I've got a weird pet theory how Aroden is actually a metaphor for Dungeons and Dragons and Iomedae is Pathfinder, but that's not here nor there.

The personification of Undead has so much story potential in a lot of ways. I mean, Arazni is one my favorite NPCs in the setting. And Vampires are the stereotypical 'Come and have a seat, dine at my table while I sip the blood of peasants from my wineglass.' sort of shenanigans. And ghosts are definitely interesting because you want to put them to rest, ideally, instead of stabbing them repeatedly.

I think my favorite undead interaction in recent APs was the Age of Extinction banshee you can recruit for your circus.

And at the same time, I still won't buy the PCs as Undead book. Not my cuppa.

I'm not against there being consequences and ramifications to killing an undead, especially if one is considered pro-social in its community just in terms of objective morality, a paladin would never fall for killing an undead. No matter what else an undead is, its still an abomination against the order of the universe.

Grand Lodge

I'm not sure but I think this is the Thread I was referring to:
Old Thread that I *think* is the one I was talking about earlier

EDIT:

No, that one wasn't it; damnit. I found this post in an old Thread but I can't seem to find the Thread I started where I first developed my argument and wrestled it around with some other posters. Ah well.
Some other random Alignment Thread

Grand Lodge

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Kobold Catgirl wrote:
A Lawful Good character trusts her ethics to lead her to Good ends. A Chaotic Good character trusts his gut.

.

Wow. This is a really interesting interpretation -- I think I see your argument here but my own background is making it a bit ambiguous. I'm hoping you can clarify it a bit....

So, the word 'ethics' (from where I'm coming) is not the same as 'right & wrong' or 'morality' -- instead, it's 'The study of How individual people and society, you know, decide what is 'right & wrong' or 'moral.' (You believe murder is morally wrong: But WHAT makes you believe that? HOW do you determine that? As an individual or society.) That is 'ethics.' (for me)

So for me, I'm reading your statement as 'A LG character trusts his or her 'moral compass' to lead to good ends. And a CG character trusts his or her gut. .... And I think, well, a person's 'gut instinct' is immediate and reactive, a Chaotic Personality. And I'd juxtapose that with a Lawful personality where the Lawful character may still feel a gut reaction one way, but will pause, take a breath, and think about the situation for a second to question if that 'gut feeling' is actually moral. (And it may be, but the Lawful personality will take the time to think it through.)

....But then I have the question: Does your premise hold true to LE and CE?
Does a LE character trust his or her immorality to lead to evil ends?
Does a CE character trust his or her gut?
Thinking about it, I think it DOES. But it's arguable. While the CE question rings perfectly accurate (again, I'm relying on my 'Personality Alignment' interpretation), the LE question seems trickier.
I think that's because it's harder to put oneself into the Evil mindset. I mean, since I'm not Evil (inhumane, psychopathic, racist, megalomaniacal, etc.) it's harder to think through: "I trust my LE immorality to know that gay people and Elves don't have inalienable rights and I can 'murder-hobo' them."
But still think it works.

....Now for Neutral!?!


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MadScientistWorking wrote:


So your logic is that alignment is kind of broken as a premise and the fun part is trying to fix it???

I'll reiterate what I said in the other thread. If you have a system where an act of genocide doesn't net you the evil tag then the system is trash.

I do not think that's the system I would play with. :)

And yes, sort of. Alignment isn't "broken", it's a lens. Think of it like a film theory or philosophy--sometimes it applies, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes a Realist approach to international relations helps, sometimes a Liberal or Marxist approach works better. Very few would suggest you should only ever apply one or the other.

What's really interesting is where the lens fails.

Many characters are Evil who don't deserve death, or whose deaths we can still mourn. In Order of the Stick, killing Redcloak would lead to the end of the world. Tsukiko's death is, perhaps, necessary, but tragic all the same.

That's where alignment gets interesting. Because if "Evil" is just a willingness to harm others unnecessarily, a lot of people who consider themselves Good are going to fall under that umbrella from time to time. Vengeance crusades that go too far, well-meaning authority figures who stand by while atrocities are committed because "well, it's a necessary evil", soldiers who follow whatever orders they're given, even if they feel guilt for it, bandits and smugglers and thieves who do what they must to survive but get a little too comfortable with it.

That's where the lens gets eroded, where it starts to get smudged. But it's still the system the world is governed by. So what do you do when a kind, likable person is justifiably marked as Evil? You are feeling empathy for a bad person.

There is no point in the LOTR books that Gollum is not Neutral Evil (or Chaotic Evil, if you like). But Frodo and Sam and Gandalf and Bilbo still pity him.

The alignment system is a cracked lens, and that makes it incredibly compelling to tell stories alongside. Again, this is what makes Order of the Stick so incredibly riveting.

W E Ray wrote:

Does a LE character trust his or her immorality to lead to evil ends?

Does a CE character trust his or her gut?

So, yes and no.

Morality, the way I run it, is about what you want and what you'll stoop to. Evil is very rarely motivated by "for evil's sake". Evil is often motivated by personal gain, but it can also be motivated by noble causes (the general who goes too far) and even love (the vengeance crusade, the mobster who does whatever it takes to protect his family).

Otherwise, it functions identically to the Good alignments with how it treats its "Ethical" alignment: A Lawful Evil character will believe that following some external code that he doesn't get to ignore whenever convenient will lead to the ends he desires--be that power, the protection of his family, etc.

Again, I do not think that most Evil characters even know they're evil. Those that do either rationalize it ("the alignment system's broken anyways, paladins just have too high of standards") or accept it ("I know I'm a bad person, but good people wind up dead").

In Tales of Wyre, an old D&D 3.5 campaign journal, there's a scene where a corrupt religious leader finds he can no longer enter the sacred warded vaults of his order, and he realizes even the lowliest paladin could now detect that he's crossed a line somewhere. Does he change course? No, he convinces himself that sure, he's gone too far, but it's for the Greater Good. Someone has to see how the sausage gets made.

Evil people who know they're evil tend to convince themselves that the order of the world itself is evil, and that what they do is inevitable--"if I didn't do this, someone else would". I think that's how a lot of billionaires get through their days.


I'm sorry, alignment gets me talking a lot, and I can't bear to make that post any longer.

LE Example:
Ebenezer Scrooge is Lawful Evil. He wants what he wants, but convinces himself that he's a perfectly good person because he Follows the Rules, he Pays His Taxes. If he's rich and successful and everyone else is poor, it's because everyone else is lazy, or spends money on frivolities. "Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it." Scrooge holds himself to the same code he holds everyone else to. He lives frugally, he doesn't waste money. He feels the chill of the dying fireplace every bit as much as Bob Cratchett, he tells himself, he's just tougher.

Of course, Scrooge is also better-fed and probably better-clothed than his poor employee. He doesn't have a family to look after. He has a lot of privilege he refuses to acknowledge. But his rationale remains Lawful. His method of being, in his mind, a "good, responsible person" remains Lawful.

One could argue that when Scrooge sees the error of his ways, he doesn't just become Lawful Good--he becomes Neutral Good. He recognizes that his own hyper-commitment to arbitrary economic rules was causing harm to others and decides to relax his standards and focus on helping them.

The conflict that sometimes arises between ethical and moral alignments is fascinating to me.

If he weren't a cruel landlord and employer actively using his power to make people's lives harder, Scrooge could almost get away with being Lawful Neutral, for what it's worth. That said, refusing to give money he can easily spare, bringing up the "surplus population"--that's not Neutral.

CE Example:
One character I play is an ex-bandit. As a bandit, she believed that the only way to survive was to be vicious, to kill before others could kill her. She was used to being pushed around, used to things she loved being taken from her, so she took things from others first.

Rosemary didn't think of herself as "good", but she didn't really believe good people existed. At best, a good person was someone who had never known hardship. She saw all ideals, all rules, as privileges of the well-off and easy-living, and rejected all constraints on her own actions even while she stole agency from others.

When Rosemary received her redemption and became a better, nobler person, she also came to believe that her rejection of rules and powers higher than herself had been what led her astray. Therefore, even though she became a champion of NG Shelyn, she's now a Lawful Good paladin. She believes that only by holding yourself accountable to a strict code can you avoid ultimately acting selfishly or doing harm.

Rosemary doesn't trust individuals' moral compasses; she trusts an arbitrary code to keep her from straying.

Doing the right thing is hard, and even most Evil people are often trying to do some version of the "right thing". The Ethical Branch, in my view, is simply the philosophy through which you try to decipher the "right thing"--whether your goal is to help others or help yourself.

EDIT: Here's the Tales of Wyre quote. CW for religious self-harm.

Meanwhile, whilst the four Bishops spoke candidly about the dilemmas which beset them, Hethio was dealing with his own remorse. His sickness was feigned, and he spent a good deal of time in acts of self-mortification in order to expunge his guilt at the murder of Rede.

Because, when the Bishop of Hethio had attempted to approach the hallowed altar of the Fane in Morne, he found that he could not. Centuries earlier, Tersimion had placed potent wards upon the dais, and, suddenly, Hethio found himself subject to them.

Hethio knew what it meant, and should the gaze of even the lowliest Paladin be directed towards him, he knew what it would reveal.

Still, he rationalized whilst striking himself across the back with his scourge, the Taint was surely of a temporary variety. He had, after all, acted in the best interests of the Temple.

Liberty's Edge

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Many interesting and thought-provoking posts in this thread. Thanks all for that.

My take on the axes of Alignment :

1. Good vs Evil axis. My take on this is mostly based on the PF1 CRB. The lithmus test is how you act towards innocent people.

Good acts to protect them.

Neutral cares about innocent but does not act to protect them, usually because they have bigger fish to fry, including self-preservation.

Evil does not care about innocents and will oppress and hurt them without any qualms.

2. Law vs Chaos axis. My take on this is basically drawn from my experience living in Japan, which I consider as a great RL example of a Lawful society. The lithmus test here is how you react to being told what to do by an outside legitimate (in your society) authority, with the epitome of such being your culture's traditions.

Lawful respects and tries to obey / conform as much as possible. Even for laws that don't conform to their traditions, they will try their utmost to at least look like they respect the letter of them. Lawful trusts the system to bring them what they need or want.

Chaotic is pretty much the reverse. They tend to rebel or resent being told what they should do by something outside them. They distrust the system and will not rely on it, or even will try to get rid of it, so that they can obtain what they need or want.

Neutral here reacts according to what seems best. They do not care about the system one way or another. Only about what they need or want.


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I should say, I do consider each alignment to be a broad spectrum. In my games, some Evil people don't care about innocents, some care more, some wish they cared but don't. Same goes for Good and Lawful and Chaotic and Neutral.

Grand Lodge

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At the very least, I am more and more absolutely on the side of 'One Player can Never dictate Alignment meaning on another player!'

I acknowledge that it can be a scary leap to make -- that the players screaming 'Uh, well, what if the Nalfeshnee Warpriest of Lamashtu decides it's really CN? Ha Ha -- your Smite Evil doesn't work, NaNa'Ne'NaNa! Now let me go murder hobo those villagers' -- or the players screaming 'Oh yeah, well my Paladin of Iomedae doesn't need an Atonement because committing the arson that burned down the village and killed all the children in the orphanage also exposed the Nalfeshnee's lair so it wasn't Evil!' -- are out there and no DM wants that problem at the gaming table.

But I just don't buy it.

If your problem is with immature players (aka Munchkins) making ridiculous arguments:
(It's okay that my NG Bard violently raped that tavern girl because I'm not a Paladin.) -- then Alignment interpretation is NOT the problem in your game!

It's just as dumb as the player who argues that another PC can't use Intimidate (or Bluff) 'Cuz I'm a Paladin! So you better Not play your character or I'll attack you!'

Yeah, Alignment's not the problem there.

.

A Perfectly Apropos Anecdote from a Taldor Game:

About five or six years ago we played a Temple of Elemental Evil-based campaign in Taldor and one of the players played a Paladin.

Now, said player was fun to have at the gaming table and a good gamer, but he did have some social-skills problems and part of his attraction to D&D was the escapism aspect from a poor life: 'At least here I'm a really cool bad-ass' and 'when I'm gaming I'm a winner with friends who accept me.' ...Which is Awesome!! I'm glad my gaming table was open to him; we All need to have a place where life is good, especially when life elsewhere is not so good.

But,... the rest of the table did raise eyebrows at this player wanting to run a LG Paladin instead of the more typical murder-lusting Barbarian, Rogue or Slayer. Still we encouraged him.

Then came the time well into the campaign, 14th, 15th Level, when Lamashtu herself offered the Paladin a really awesome magical sword, maybe the total bonuses were like +6 or +7, and all he had to do to have the Epic sword was, ahem, "give her his Seed." Yep, Lamashtu, demon goddess and "MOTHER of Monsters" wants some Paladin in her.

And the player immediately, lustily agreed. He was 'All In!' He wanted that incredibly awesome sword, and loved the idea of his character having sex with a goddess.

But. He's. A. Paladin!

He's gifting the irredeemably Evil demon goddess, mother of monsters, HOW many offspring of monsters? And will they be immune to Holy Damage cuz of their Paladin daddy?!?

And I really struggled with this. No WAY a Paladin is gonna do that.

But I'm not going to dictate to another player, blah, blah, blah.

So eventually I thought, Ya know,... This dude IS from Taldor afterall. He has become one of Taldor's great Heroes in the course of this campaign. Ie.: He IS one of Taldor's 'Great Hopes' at becoming a great nation again and stopping the cultural rot and social downfall of the once grand and noble, now pathetically decaying, decadent, crumbling nation.
... THIS IS PERFECT!


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Kobold Catgirl wrote:
Temperans wrote:
TLDR; Some people accept in universe explanations for why a person could have 1 alignment and still do X action. While other people will not accept those explanations.
That's a weirdly lopsided way of talking about people who disagree with you. Maybe they have their own explanations that make more sense to them than yours?

I was not dismissing other's opinion. But acknowledging that different people view, interact, and rationalize alignment differently. To me understanding that helps the greater context of the thread. By acknowledging that understanding different ways of thinking we can come to a more comprehensive conversation. Yes, different people will have different explanations, but different people will also have a limit to what they can accept.

Also as W E Ray said, we shouldn't push out definition of alignment on other players, and immature players being a problem does not make alignment itself a problem. I would extend this to be that no matter how much you try to fix alignment to remove problematic interpretations a problematic player will still find a way to create more of them.

Quote:


I'm also a little confused at why "it's a character flaw based on past circumstance" makes a character not evil--isn't the whole point of evil that it's seductive and often comes with extenuating circumstances and good intentions?

It's hard to engage with this more without, like, more context on what you're talking about. "one action" covers a lot of ground. Do they regret the action? Would they commit it again if given the same circumstances?

Regarding this, what I mean is that a character is made up of different traits and histories, the alignment representing the sum of it. Just because 1 part does not fit does not mean the rest suddenly stop existing.

your LE example:
You mention how Scrouge goes from LE to LG or even NG because he shares and is a bit less greedy.

I would argue that he becomes a LN character instead. Why? Because even if he shares and is less greedy, he is still one to follow the law and his sense of business. It would be when he becomes a philanthropist or something else that he in my opinion would turn into a LG character.

the antihero:
Antiheroes by definition have some part that the audience finds disconcerting in some way. But that aspect of them does not determine what alignment the character is.

Batman as a vigilante is constantly breaking the law and beating up people, but he is described as the good guy because he is stopping crime and is a prominent philanthropist. His flaw is the need to take matters into his own hands even if it breaks the law. But no one would say batman is chaotic.

Here is a more complicated example. The Punisher is violent vigilante who will murder anyone who gets in his way to stop evil. The driving core of the character is someone who will not stop until they reach their goal, which would make him very lawful; If not for his willful disregard for authority and order. The his method would make him sound like an evil character, but his goal of killing evil are more certainly good. So what alignment is he? Well I would say he is neutral as his character balances out. But another person might say he is LE because he kills but only bad guys; Yet another person might use the exact same reasons to say he is CG.

Overall I agree a lot with your view on alignment. We might differ on some things like how fast someone can fall or get redeemed. But on the core of what alignment means? Yeah I think we agree.


I don't recall anything in A Christmas Carol about post-ghost Scrooge continuing to value the law and economic systems above doing the right thing. The thing is, Scrooge was never greedy. That's the funny thing about him--he took no joy in being rich. He just had deep contempt for the poor, and equated his success with superiority. Pride, not greed, was his problem. Scrooge McDuck, on the other hand, might make a much better argument for a Chaotic character. ;)

Also, he did become a philanthropist. Expressly. That was the whole point of the book. :P

Liberty's Edge

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W E Ray wrote:

At the very least, I am more and more absolutely on the side of 'One Player can Never dictate Alignment meaning on another player!'

I acknowledge that it can be a scary leap to make -- that the players screaming 'Uh, well, what if the Nalfeshnee Warpriest of Lamashtu decides it's really CN? Ha Ha -- your Smite Evil doesn't work, NaNa'Ne'NaNa! Now let me go murder hobo those villagers' -- or the players screaming 'Oh yeah, well my Paladin of Iomedae doesn't need an Atonement because committing the arson that burned down the village and killed all the children in the orphanage also exposed the Nalfeshnee's lair so it wasn't Evil!' -- are out there and no DM wants that problem at the gaming table.

But I just don't buy it.

If your problem is with immature players (aka Munchkins) making ridiculous arguments:
(It's okay that my NG Bard violently raped that tavern girl because I'm not a Paladin.) -- then Alignment interpretation is NOT the problem in your game!

It's just as dumb as the player who argues that another PC can't use Intimidate (or Bluff) 'Cuz I'm a Paladin! So you better Not play your character or I'll attack you!'

Yeah, Alignment's not the problem there.

.

** spoiler omitted **...

Different people have different takes on what Good (for example) means. And they usually do not realize it, using the word Good to represent widely different things and believing they all have the same concept of what is Good.

That is how you get surprise Paladin falls at the table, which just put everybody at each other's throat.

In a setting with absolute morality, it is the deities, ie the GM, who decide what Good is. Hopefully with input from the players, but ultimately the GM's choice.

Really Alignment should be treated like a houserule. To be shared and discussed before the game even begins.


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Kobold Catgirl wrote:

I don't recall anything in A Christmas Carol about post-ghost Scrooge continuing to value the law and economic systems above doing the right thing. The thing is, Scrooge was never greedy. That's the funny thing about him--he took no joy in being rich. He just had deep contempt for the poor, and equated his success with superiority. Pride, not greed, was his problem. Scrooge McDuck, on the other hand, might make a much better argument for a Chaotic character. ;)

Also, he did become a philanthropist. Expressly. That was the whole point of the book. :P

Scrouge was greedy and and extreme miser. That is he was so greedy he would not not even spend money on himself.

At the end, he stops being miserly and starts being more generous. But that does not by any means says he became more lenient or less greedy. Even if he did become a philanthropist which I don't recall (maybe because I saw the movies not read the books).

So maybe Scrooge was neutral and became good. But I doubt he went from evil to good is my point. Aka there was a process to it. I am not saying anyone on this thread has done it, but in plenty of "Paladin falls" threads people have suggested that a single action is enough to make them fall.


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Temperans wrote:
Kobold Catgirl wrote:

I don't recall anything in A Christmas Carol about post-ghost Scrooge continuing to value the law and economic systems above doing the right thing. The thing is, Scrooge was never greedy. That's the funny thing about him--he took no joy in being rich. He just had deep contempt for the poor, and equated his success with superiority. Pride, not greed, was his problem. Scrooge McDuck, on the other hand, might make a much better argument for a Chaotic character. ;)

Also, he did become a philanthropist. Expressly. That was the whole point of the book. :P

Scrouge was greedy and and extreme miser. That is he was so greedy he would not not even spend money on himself.

At the end, he stops being miserly and starts being more generous. But that does not by any means says he became more lenient or less greedy. Even if he did become a philanthropist which I don't recall (maybe because I saw the movies not read the books).

So maybe Scrooge was neutral and became good. But I doubt he went from evil to good is my point. Aka there was a process to it. I am not saying anyone on this thread has done it, but in plenty of "Paladin falls" threads people have suggested that a single action is enough to make them fall.

To be fair, undergoing a whole night of being visited by 3 spirits to traumatize show him the error of his ways in graphic detail as a part of a spiritual morality play on the evils of greed and Capitalism are pretty exceptional circumstances, so if something were able to cause an alignment shift of more than one degree at a time, this probably qualifies.

Even if you consider alignment to be a meter of what the universe thinks of you, rather than what you feel in your heart, the feelings of generosity instilled in him are probably Good-aligned even if he needs to make the crawl through cosmically being considered Neutral, first.


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I'm pretty sure the book stresses that Scrooge's change goes beyond "no longer actively doing harm". He keeps Christmas well. He's giving to the poor. Also, "He didn't become more lenient"??? What? What the heck was the point of anything the Ghost of Christmas Present showed him, then?? Why would the Ghost lecture him about the evils of the system Scrooge upheld if not to turn Scrooge away from that system? Seriously, I have no idea how you can come away from reading the book and think Scrooge doesn't change his ways at the end.

I will say, I am all for Ebenezer Scrooge replacing Batman as the "alignment debate mascot".


W E Ray wrote:

[l, Alignment was truly the only interesting, deeply dynamic aspect of this whole game. I mean, 40 years of playing this game and the characters, plot lines, dungeons, monsters, heck even the table jokes, banter and puns, are ALL the SAME.

Ok. I'm more interested in this debate because I refuse to accept it as fact. How? How can you be that much in a rut? This is a game where part of it's inspiration is a police procedural and a children's card game.

Edit:
The alignment thing I'm baffled by but ehhh... It's something people derive joy from so I shouldn't mock it otherwise I'd be a jerk.


As a person who thinks that "alignment" is one of the worst ideas ever put on paper: The moral system of Pathfinder has only a passing resemblance with the moral system of reality. Neutrality exixsts, just for starters. The fact that it is possible, for a human being, being neutral when it comes to good and evil is already an incredible departure from reality. In Pathfinder Desmond Tutu (rip) is wrong and the Norimberga defense might just save you from the flames of Hell and get your soul to the much more enjoyable mechanisms of Axis.
And that's without even counting the supposed examplars of neutrality, like Imot, who commit genocides on the regular without becoming evil for some reason.
Or the CN proteans, who will screw you over in horrible and twisted ways because it is funny to them but somehow don't count as evil.

Good and Evil themselves are apparently much more flexible. There is a LG Empyreal lord of executions and another of nobility. In Pathfinder aristocracy can have an ACTUAL mandate of heaven. I believe it does in Holomog. Evil is at least consistent, i can't think of an evil being in pathfinder that would be good by modern standards.

Basically any attempt to track pathfinder morality with reasonable modern morality is doomed to fail. Which is why i ignore aligment wherever possible and give my players freedom to define their alignment as they see fit.

Liberty's Edge

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Most RL human beings do not usually act to protect innocent people they do not know. Nor do most casually abuse and hurt innocent people either.

Hence, most RL human beings are Neutral on the Good-Evil axis.

Which does not mean they are incapable of doing Good or Evil acts.

Liberty's Edge

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And RL justice does not try to peg you as Good or Evil, but to assess whether you commited a crime and what your punition should be.

Liberty's Edge

I honestly think we can use the alignment system as a way to classify RL humans. It is actually usually easy to do on these boards and with threads like this, because you can see how some posters tend to conflate Good and Chaos (and Evil and Law) and vice versa.

I am pretty sure it will not be worse than many such personality classification systems (sociostyles, MBTI, ...).

Liberty's Edge

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The third hidden axis of Alignment I forgot : the Jerkitude axis. Those full of it are the jerks who will use their PC's alignment to justify ruining other players and GM's fun.

And it works with any alignment.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I mean, weird thing about Torag as god of defensive war is that only way Torag's faithful would cause genocide of surrendering foes would be if entire species was part of siege attacking Torag's faith <_<

Its still bit of absurd edict since its one of those that only makes sense in good alignment if given full paragraph of explanation to explain single line :p

Grand Lodge

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Temperans wrote:
Batman...

is the perfect example of where the alignment system breaks down and why it needs to be more of a broad way to guide ethics and morality, not a rigid system of putting things or creatures in a box.

Unfortunately, we have aspects of the game like "this applies vs evil" or champions and their (perceived) rigid alignment restrictions that force us to use alignment in ways it is not really prepared to. IME, the only time alignment discussions work is when you are evaluating a specific event, knowing all the related factors. Hypothesizing just doesn't work. There is virtually nothing that can be rigidly classified as always good or always evil. You'll always find people who will say, "yes, but what what..." even in cases like burning down an orphanage.


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The annoying thing about alignment debates is that everyone defines an alignment differently. I appreciate that we've mostly been pretty good about recognizing that distinction and talking about our definitions, rather than the endless Batman arguments.

Alignment can absolutely be used to classify characters--that's what makes it interesting, how consistent evil actions can stain someone as Evil who otherwise is perfectly pleasant to be around--but it requires clarify of definition. Personally, I think causing death or suffering when there are other sensible options is always Evil, and so it's easy to work out which characters are ultimately classed as Evil in my game. That needs to be clear with players, however, or it can lead to confusion.

Batman is an entire alignment chart based on which version you're using, but I honestly think Batman is one of my least favorite superheroes, so arguments about him bore me past tears. :P


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Batman is every alignment.

I'm sure people are aware of this, but I like the meme.


Out of all the alignments batman can be, he definitely is.

Silver Crusade

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Batman has also had 100s of portrayals by numerous actors and even more writers. There is not a "singular" Batman.


You might be able to argue what his "typical" alignment is by averaging his stories. I'm on LG side.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TwilightKnight wrote:
Temperans wrote:
Batman...
is the perfect example of where the alignment system breaks down and why it needs to be more of a broad way to guide ethics and morality, not a rigid system of putting things or creatures in a box.

Regardless of what version of Batman is what alignment, I also think that is kinda missing a point as well.

Like.... D&D version of alignment doesn't actually HAVE to be universally applicable outside of D&D, it just has to make sense inside D&D. I think pathfinder version of it does make mostly sense.


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CorvusMask wrote:
TwilightKnight wrote:
Temperans wrote:
Batman...
is the perfect example of where the alignment system breaks down and why it needs to be more of a broad way to guide ethics and morality, not a rigid system of putting things or creatures in a box.

Regardless of what version of Batman is what alignment, I also think that is kinda missing a point as well.

Like.... D&D version of alignment doesn't actually HAVE to be universally applicable outside of D&D, it just has to make sense inside D&D. I think pathfinder version of it does make mostly sense.

Yeah, it's for practical purposes. It's not a real measurement of morality. Just a handy guideline for what to expect in game.


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I'm actually kind of defensive of the idea of applying alignment outside of the rules system, but again, I view alignment as a lens. Sometimes it works better, sometimes less so. Tony Stark is probably evil, by my measurements, because he never really seems to accept that his "suit of armor around the world" plan was kind of, well, morally wrong and deeply irresponsible. Maybe Neutral. I'd also accept Neutral. But it does probably keep him from being "Good", since it's so fundamental to his worldview. Good intentions, bad methods.

That said, it's not that interesting an insight. It's a boring debate.

See, the MCU is a pretty morally simplistic series. There are very few truly morally complex villains in the MCU--the closest they get is Killmonger. Despite the awkward attempts made in Civil War, the MCU just isn't that interested in debates about Good and Evil. We never seriously imagine that Tony or Steve might be bad people; they're just good people caught in a big dumb misunderstanding to stir up drama. It's like a romance without the good stuff in it.

There are many fun ways to analyze the MCU, but applying D&D alignments to them is just kind of boring and doesn't tell you much about the themes they build towards. We never question that Tony Stark is a good person, and we aren't supposed to. Something the "facts don't care about your feelings" crowd has never really understood is that just because something is technically true doesn't make it relevant or interesting. "Tony Stark is Lawful Neutral" might be technically true, but it doesn't really mean anything to me.

But, to contrast, I find examining the character of Scrooge through the alignment lens to be fascinating. A Christmas Carol is all about the difference between empathy, apathy and antipathy, about the nature of social/communal responsibility, about what it means to be a good person. It's great debate fodder, especially because it's fundamentally a very simple story. Is early-book Scrooge Lawful Evil, or just Lawful Neutral? Does he become Neutral Good at the end, or Lawful Good? Are the ghosts Good, or is "scare 'em straight" a Neutral tactic?

The categories can serve as prompts for much deeper questions. It's why paladin threads get so contentious.

In my opinion, "D&D alignment charts" are like any other analytical lens. Sometimes they yield interesting discussions, and sometimes they don't.


In the end, Tony did sacrifice himself to save the universe. Self sacrifice is just about the most good thing you can do. But most of his career would be neutral/LN by alignment standards in the MCU. Creating Ultron was his low point, but arguably, he hadn't figured out the majority of the details of it and really did not consider the ramifications. It was more careless than evil I'd say.


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I strongly believe that Evil people can sacrifice themselves for noble aims (or aims they think are noble).

I also think that there is an interesting question about intent--where do you cross the line? Sure, he didn't know what would happen, but he did know that multiple very intelligent and noble people thought it was a very bad idea, and he chose to ignore their warnings and gamble the lives of many innocent people. I think I judge "recklessness" much harsher, in alignment terms, if you're deliberately reckless, even in the face of better counsel. There's a big difference between throwing a punch at some random jerk noble and accidentally starting a war versus doing so after being warned by your partymembers about the potential consequences. Is it enough to make it an evil act? Hard to say.

I also think the "suit of armor" plan presented ideas about totalitarianism that were flawed even sans-Ultron, but, like, again, I don't think the movie really earns the amount of thought I'm putting into it. Joss Whedon has the biting moral questions and nuanced philosophy of stale cottage cheese.


They made it apparent that he wanted to protect people. His methods were questionable but in the end, when he got the opportunity with the stones, he proved that it wasn't just his ego or just playing the hero. His last act puts him in good territory. I don't know if that'll convince you though. What's interesting to me though is cap and tony can be seen as lawful even though they're on opposite sides of the accords.


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Yeah, I think "the road to hell is paved with", for me, dictates a lot of my personal alignment philosophy. Basically everyone thinks they're a good person, and given a cartoonish dilemma like, "Hmm, who deserves to live more, me or half of the entire galaxy?", even most evil characters would probably say the galaxy.

But again, the MCU is a cartoon. There are virtually no even slightly nuanced villains. Perhaps Killmonger is the only one of their number who would die to save even that number of people.


Would they be willing to off themselves for it though? That's what makes it a heroic act. Not just the acknowledgement of the situation.


Like, I wouldn't be able to do it.


Some of them would and some of them wouldn't. I don't think Good is defined simply by the presence of great deeds--it's the presence of nobility coupled with the absence of evil. Otherwise, you're either Neutral (if you have the absence of evil but lack the presence of nobility, or have some presence of evil but not enough to go hard-E) or Evil (if you have the presence of evil, nobility or no).

This is just how I run it. I think it's the most interesting interpretation. It provides lots of breathing room for likable Evil characters.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kobold Catgirl wrote:
I strongly believe that Evil people can sacrifice themselves for noble aims (or aims they think are noble).

Absolutly agree with this. Watch Hilda and the Mountain Kimg for a great example (after watching the first 2 seasons of Hilda, as it is a wonderful little show)


I guess there's a difference between "good" and "heroic". They do correlate but are not necessarily one to one. I really like Tony's character. I get the feeling you might not. Correct me if I'm wrong. Out of the MCU, he's got the best written story I'd say. The rest is pretty cookie cutter.


Intentions are important in measuring morals. Bad intentions always mean evil. but the opposite isn't necessarily true. Good intentions + good actions = good. I think most of what Tony was doing would be considered good actions. Besides before he became iron man, he never got to the point where he was doing evil with good intentions. Thankfully there were people to stop him from that potential. And in the end, I think he was convinced. After the events of infinity war he settled down and had raised a family. And after End Game, good intentions + self sacrifice = good.


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I don't really like the MCU (except the GotG movies and Black Panther), but my best friend is very fond of Tony's character.

I think one of the problems with alignment summaries is we often rely on either vague categories and intangible "rules" or individual, overly-narrow examples. A popular alignment explanation I hear is the "starving man story": Good, Neutral and Evil people each see a starving man, and each one takes a different action. The trouble is, these are often un-nuanced stereotypes of alignments that usually end up being much more complicated in practice.

So to explain my POV, I'm going to use that device, but with three Evil characters. Their ethical alignment doesn't matter here.

KC's Droning About Alignment Again:
The first Evil character sees a starving man on the side of the road. She goes out of her way to harm the man in some way--robbing him, killing him, cheating him, mocking him. She didn't have to do this. She is not starving to death herself. This is unambiguously evil.

The second Evil character sees a starving man on the roadside. She happens to be carrying a sack full of loaves of bread. She is well-fed, and she's taking these loaves to go and feed the ducks, even though the ducks are also well-fed. She refuses to help the man, even though it would cost her literally nothing. Perhaps she thinks poor people deserve to starve, or perhaps she just doesn't want to be bothered. This is evil, albeit more passively so--and not just because she's feeding ducks bread (don't do that). She is allowing a man to die in front of her despite having the means to save him easily and casually within her grasp.

The third Evil character sees a starving man on the roadside. She has only one loaf of bread, but she goes and shares it with him, feeling compassion for his plight. She talks to the man and comforts him, reassuring him that one day, her (evil or amoral) deity's blessings will shine upon him, as they have her. The man reacts with disgust--he's a follower of a goodly god. Upon seeing his reaction, and hearing his faith, the Evil character immediately loses all sympathy, and begins to treat him as cruelly as the first or second Evil characters would have done.

This is evil. She may be kind to some, but she is also willing to stoop to terrible moral lows under certain circumstances. The same would apply if she learned he was related to a hated enemy and killed him in revenge, or any similar reveal of her "conditional goodness".

All three are evil, even though some have more nuance than others.

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