Lost Omens & Moral Objectivism / Relativism


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Norade wrote:
I personally think that the idea that to be LG one can't ever be evil makes no sense. We all do various kinds of evil daily measured on some scales of morality. Indeed, we could go so far as to assign a label of evil to anybody not devoted solely to doing good and even those people may take actions intended to be good with tragic effects. This is to say, the question of good and evil is no simple thing and merely acting on a single evil view isn't enough to make one evil under many systems of morality.

Posting this as a follow-up to comments in another thread that were kind of derailing the main topic. This issue is interesting enough to deserve its own space. Got a busy weekend ahead of me starting this evening, but I'll try to post when I can. Cheers, everyone.

Pathfinder might benefit from a standardized methodology used to consistently differentiate between good, neutral or evil behavior, but I guess part of the fun is leaving that up to individual tables to decide. Speaking as someone who was (initially, but no longer) against the shift toward not dealing with stories involving slavery, and argued against changing the original vision behind Pathfinder's elves and dwarves too much, I think valuing consistency and verisimilitude in the world of Lost Omens is something we share in common. In fact, what's being debated here is verisimilitude. There's some competing narratives about FKM culture that are kind of incompatible. As BTC pointed out, the rules as written can, if we're playing fast and loose with them (in a manner unintended by the game's creatives), condone a champion of a lawful good deity partaking in genocide, with the consequence of "adherence to [Torag's mandate] will result in the character soul going to [Heaven]." Assuming we both agree genocide is evil, that's...jarring. Verisimilitude already seems kinda broken. So, how to go about resolving this apparent contradiction?

On the matter of "the idea that to be LG one can't ever be evil" — I don't think anyone here holds this view. Mistakes and temporarily succumbing to temptation are kind of expected out of anyone. It's when a character recognizes that something is wrong, and continues to walk that path when there are other options available to them, that their alignment has shifted. This can't be an impulsive action, but must be pre-meditated. At least, that's the sense I've gotten from the material.

On the matter of "is Golarion fundamentally objectivist or relativist in its moral foundations?" — I think the answer to that question is a little unclear, and always has been. The cosmos itself seems to, from a global perspective, operate in cycles of life and destruction, to which the Great Beyond itself is beholden to, although its fundamental dynamics of conflict between good and evil may reliably persist. "Good" and "evil" are objective forces that clearly exist — but that does not make them all-powerful. People are motivated to choose one or the other simply for the reason of pursuing what they value individually. So "good" is an objective force, but that does not mean the world itself is objectively good. Should one fail to value the worth and potential of the cosmos, one can be reasonably persuaded that evil objectives are the right course for them. So the trick with good-aligned heroes is generally in teaching people to value.


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The actual forces of good and evil are held by deities that hold those ideals to very high standard. Character alignment can and should be a lot more loose I think. Being NG doesn't mean that you're entirely selfless and well adjusted with the right answer for everything. NE characters don't need to be cartoon villains as well.

Liberty's Edge

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Good acts to protect innocents.

Neutral cares about innocents but has bigger fish to fry.

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

And anyone can act Good or Neutral or Evil. Your alignment indicates the kind of action you are more likely to take, not what you will always do.

Outsiders are made of alignment, and live within an environment and with people that share their alignment, so they are less likely to drift from it.

Deities are in an odd place as they look like ascended outsiders but seem to have the same moral flexibility as mortals do, though tempered with divine wisdom.


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Disclaimer: I don't know a lot about philosophy.

Corny as it sounds, I think I follow Order of the Stick alignment rules. I was quite jarred when I read the official book, in fact, and realized that my definition of Evil didn't match the book's at all.

Quick definitions:
"Unnecessary" - easily prevented without serious threat to the subject, i.e. a man starving to death next to you when you have plenty of food to spare and know his situation.

"acceptance"/"comfort" - a decision, conscious or unconscious, that an action is justified enough to continue doing it, i.e. viewing torture as something permissible to resort to on a short-term or long-term basis. "If I could do it all over again, I'd do it the same." / "It wasn't my fault."

To me, Evil simply accepts suffering befalling others unnecessarily or excessively. Her guilt or ideals or codes or premeditation are entirely irrelevant--the only question is, does she accept unnecessarily hurting others? Does she keep doing it?

Good and Neutral simply represent greater distances gained from Evil--Neutral does not accept causing needless harm, but feels less obligated to accept harm onto herself to prevent or mitigate harm to others. Good avoids causing unnecessary harm, but may also object to less obviously gratuitous suffering--doing nonlethal damage to enemies, refusing to kill those who aren't an immediate threat, and especially refusing to allow someone else to be harmed, even if trying to stop it might put her in jeopardy.

A Good character becomes Neutral when they become "comfortable" with allowing unnecessary suffering, particularly when attempting to prevent the suffering might harm them in some way. A Neutral character becomes Evil when they become "comfortable" with taking part in causing unnecessary suffering--even when they have other options available.

I am honestly not sure if this is what the rules intend, but I also don't understand how I can take alignment seriously otherwise.

As for relative vs. objective morality, I think it's simple--it's objective in-universe, but relative at the table. I've always gotten the impression that the GM, and the group as a whole to some extent, are the ultimate judges of what falls under the Good/Evil umbrellas.


An Example:
Let's say a Paladin embarks on a vengeance crusade after three orc bandits kill his husband. Right away, vengeance on its own is an inherently Evil pursuit to me--to me, mind you--because it centers bringing harm to others as its primary focus. That said, vengeance can be tied to other goals, like "make sure this won't happen again", that can make it a more Good-adjacent goal.

So, the Paladin embarks to make sure this won't happen to anyone else. He tracks down the first orc, who seems to still be up to her old tricks, and attacks her in the middle of a bandit raid, killing her. He's in the clear here--she was an active threat, and he didn't initiate unnecessary violence.

Next, the paladin tracks down the second orc. However, this orc is currently working as a bouncer. She's not actively hurting anyone anymore. She sees the Paladin and greets him mockingly, but reassures him that banditry just didn't pay well enough and she's going to go on the straight and narrow from now on. She doesn't want to fight. The Paladin can't be sure, and he decides to err on the side of caution and attacks with lethal force.

She draws a dagger and fights back, ultimately defeating him. She spares him, though, not wanting to get in trouble. He refuses to accept her mercy and keeps fighting, and manages to kill her. At this point, the Paladin has committed a blatantly Neutral act. He had some reason to see this orc as a potential threat in the future, and she was armed, but ultimately he initiated violence against a foe who was not hurting anyone rather than seeking her incarceration or redemption. He was given multiple chances to deescalate.

The Paladin, at this point, could fall. If he decides that this was an acceptable action to resort to, it would make him Lawful Neutral. In this case, that's what happens. The Paladin knows he went too far, but convinces himself that he was forced down this path, and so he becomes a Lawful Neutral Ex-Paladin. He decides he will simply seek atonement after doing "what needs to be done"--simply another form of acceptance.

Now the Ex-Paladin hunts down the last orc. He finds her tilling a field with some difficulty. Her hard life has left her crippled, and she is no longer able to fight, but she greets him as mockingly as the last. He helps her till the field as they talk. She reveals that she is unrepentant, but tired of fighting, and now simply wishes to be left alone. She still detects as Evil, but he also believes her when she says she no longer wants to fight.

When they are finished tilling the fields, the Ex-Paladin finds himself with a choice: Kill the orc, or spare her.

Killing her is an Evil act. Flagrantly. Yes, the orc is evil, and yes, she wronged him, but she is no threat to anyone anymore. He would only be killing her for the sake of vengeance--"justice", perhaps, in his mind. Putting aside the dishonor and cowardice of killing an invalid farmer, he would be hurting someone completely unnecessarily.

If the Ex-Paladin spares her, he might have a chance at redemption--if he's able to accept that he didn't handle the second orc encounter well, either, and perhaps recognize that vengeance at some point overtook his noble intentions without him noticing.


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So diegetically the reason for mortals is to sort the kind of energy that just comes pouring out of the positive energy plane into the nine kinds of energy that make up the outer planes. The outer planes work on some kind of combining order/chaos and selflessness/selfishness and the in-between of those. These loosely model what mortals consider good/evil etc. but we're here for a fun time not a deep philosophical discussion.

Where the is a disconnect is that Pathfinder tries to have it both ways where alignment is descriptive but at the same time is something that is at least aspirational. Partially because you might lose your powers if you stray from the allowable alignments, partially because the premise of this sort of game involves feeling like "being a hero" and so you avoid things that clash with that sentiment, and partially because everybody deep down wants to believe that they're living a good life and their actions are defensible or even laudable (i.e. except for really depraved nihilists, nobody really believes they are the villain.)

So in the first sense someone might be good because they mostly do good things. But they might stop being good not because they stopped doing mostly good things, but because they did something that no good person could justify. But this is not symmetric because while there's such a thing as "it doesn't matter how much you do for the community, hunting and eating the homeless is just not okay" but the reverse doesn't really work (an evil person might just be doing "good work" for the community to provide cover for their depredations and that doesn't make them any less evil.)

So I think it's just important to get everybody at the table to come to an understanding on how deep we're going to drill down on this sort of thing. You don't actually need an alignment system, but for the people actually playing the game "saving the orphans from the fire" is just going to feel different than "burning down the orphanage."


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I realize I never really clarified the "OotS Rules" thing, so to be clear: One of my favorite elements of Order of the Stick is how they push this idea that someone can be a "bad person"--Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic Evil--and still be sympathetic, still be someone to root for, still be someone to care about. Because, you know, they're still a person. They still have the capacity to be better, they still have the capacity to hurt.

Once you define a character as a person, rather than a monster or fiend or undead or horror, they have an inherent right to exist free of suffering, and being "Evil" doesn't change that as long as it's a "human" kind of Evil.

I find the alignment system really interesting. I don't know how else to describe it--it's interesting, and I love it as a part of Pathfinder. I love the inherent struggle of reconciling this objective measure of morality with the more practical, messy realities of it. Someone being a bad person doesn't mean they're not a person, and that's an incredibly powerful element that objective alignment actually really helps to emphasize.

It's a really messy system, but I adore it for the kinds of stories it allows you to tell. The tale of Miko Miyazaki or Redcloak or Varsuvius or Belkar works better, not worse, with an objective measurement of morality, in no small part because of the strange flaws and glitches with the system.


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The objective morality of Pathfinder alignments is something I greatly enjoy. There is Good and there is Evil. Its nice in comparison to the relative morality of the real world, where what is lauded as good changes with time and who we catch doing it.

I also think that most people's problems with alignment come from not wanting to acknowledge that they want to do evil things and can play characters who are, in the end, more neutral and evil than good.

If someone wants to play fantasy Jack Bauer, then they have to be okay with being evil.

However, I don't think standardizing Pathfinder's Objective Morality is going to do Paizo any favors. Its written by people who live in a world of relative morality. The ultimate arbiter of Objective Morality is the table you're playing at and the GM. If you don't care for what your GM thinks is good or evil, there needs to be an honest discussion about it, or people need to walk away.

Liberty's Edge

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Kobold Catgirl wrote:
Killing her is an Evil act. Flagrantly. Yes, the orc is evil, and yes, she wronged him, but she is no threat to anyone anymore. He would only be killing her for the sake of vengeance--"justice", perhaps, in his mind. Putting aside the dishonor and cowardice of killing an invalid farmer, he would be hurting someone completely unnecessarily.

The Farmer is no innocent though. Good people can kill her without it being Evil. And Lawful Good absolutely hates guilty people not being punished for their crimes.

The Paladin should follow the legal tradition of his culture in making sure the farmer is judged fairly and punished for her crimes.


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Vengeance can be a force for good. It can be taken too far though. Deities like Ragathiel the "General of Vengeance" put a lot of emphasis on avenging the wronged rather than just vengeance for vengeance's sake.


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I think part of the problem is trying to divorce IRL feelings of morality from in game and in setting feelings of morality. With the biggest problem being the 1 action makes you fall being extremely lopsided.

In game doing things will change your alignment with very few things changing it drastically (cannibalism, torture, etc). But for some people if anything about a character is bad the character is evil, no matter how much good that character does; Even if its understood to be a character flaw based on past circumstances.

So there is this disconnect. In game the character is good or lawful because they did all these good things. But out of game some players will say the character is evil or chaotic because they did 1 thing. Neutral characters and nations do not fair better against that type of logic.

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.


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'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?


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I oppose the death penalty unconditionally.

This does not necessarily apply to "monsters". For example, by default, an aboleth is pure evil and isn't meant to be read as a "person" so much as a "force", Sauron-style. But we're talking about people. There is no person I would ever support the death penalty for.

I'll also note that D&D alignments expressly do not define someone's capacity for redemption, and never have. Again, "Evil" people are still people in D&D. There is no way to truly know someone is permanently and truly unrepentant. I would still not support the death penalty if they were, because I believe in every person's inherent right to exist provided they can be reasonably prevented from doing harm, but that's beside the point. Honestly, I don't believe anyone is beyond self-redemption, even when they are undeniably beyond forgiveness. Again, this is a tangent, and I'm sorry for creating it, Opsylum.


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Slow down. Why are you talking about bipeds and extra limbs? I said aboleths aren't people because they're fantastical eldritch abominations, not because they have funny faces. You really aren't taking me in good faith here at all, and I don't enjoy feeling like the person I'm talking to is just looking for a way to "trick" me into revealing my secret hypocrisy. My worldview is entirely consistent. It is simply quite different from yours.


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I actually appreciate that there's a good deal of nuance to the deities of good and evil. Like deities of redemption and forgiveness like Korada would absolutely be opposed to killing evil creatures at all, Korada in this case doesn't even allow for killing in self defense. While at the same time we can have good deities of vengeance, executions and debauchery. Good doesn't encompass a uniform set of ideals but a more general set.

Paizo Employee Director of Community

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Moderated out some real-world political references that border on hate speech against a religious group. I'll be keeping an eye on it and if it starts to go off rails I will be locking it for the rest of the weekend.


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Sometimes, in some settings, demons are capable of change and redemption, and are written as people. Sometimes, in some settings, they aren't. The same goes for aboleths and dragons and orcs* and all other "monsters". It's more a question of setting tone and genre conceits.

For instance, in Ravenloft, lycanthropes are evil. Full stop. That's a conceit of the genre. "Why are they evil?" is a silly question to ask in that setting. In Game of Thrones, the White Walkers are evil. They embody destruction and death. "Why are they evil?" is just wasting everyone's time refusing to get on board with a central premise of the story and genre. It's the same problem CinemaSins has--you're trying to critique stories by rules they never claimed to follow.

Lost Omens has gone a little back and forth on this, and it's really mostly table-dependent at this point--some people like seeing a friendly red dragon show up running a bookstore, some people like dragons being something ancient and primal. Both approaches are valid.

*Coding is a separate issue from this--orcs tend to have very problematic coding, and I do that that's worth talking about, but the genre conceit of "pure evil monster" exists both within and without problematic coding. After all, some stories code all-evil dragons and vampires as cruel wealthy lords and aristocrats, or demons as embodiments of our own personal struggles and foibles.


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Tonya Woldridge wrote:
Moderated out some real-world political references that border on hate speech against a religious group. I'll be keeping an eye on it and if it starts to go off rails I will be locking it for the rest of the weekend.

Can you be more specific? I had a post go and I have no idea what part of it you took objection to? It's hard to avoid doing things that will be moderated if the mods don't give details even via PMs.


I think it was the Godwin's Law invocation? But I'm not totally sure either, or even sure which one of us is getting told off here.


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For lost omens though, that's the setting and cannon. So sometimes typically evil creatures can be redeemed. Same goes for fallen angels and gods on the other side of alignment. I don't see a problem with that.


I think we're going to derail, so I'm going to stop engaging. I think we fundamentally analyze art and metaphor under very different lenses. :)

Grand Lodge

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Yeah, it’s a game, NOT real life. You have to decide the meanings of the Alignments for the game and divorce them from life. Um, PCs murder and steal. That is the game. Almost the whole game. Aasimar Paladins included.

It always bugged me that Gary Gygax knew absolutely nothing of and (seemingly arbitrarily) chose not to read up on ethics. Even a little bit.

But here’s what I play and have posted on the boards here various times over the years, in case anyone else wants to use it:

Good and Evil are ‘Moral’ Alignments.
Chaotic and Lawful are ‘Personality’ Alignments.
Neutral Alignments are those multitude of exceptions.

In my game, all the NPCs and societies will have that. If I’m running a PC in your game, that’s the definition for my PC.

No One Can Tell Another gamer how to define morality for his or her PC. One Player’s feeling of what LG means can be different than another’s. You do not have the prerogative to tell another person right from wrong. (Obviously we’re not talking about someone arguing raping children can be CG!). We’re talking mature interpretations.

And for me, Good supports inalienable Rights and means (at least generally) honest and trustworthy and generous — while Evil is anti-personal Rights and means generally selfish and prejudice and bigoted. A Good character believes in Freedom and Helping and Society; an Evil character could believe in even just one of the evils against ‘humanity’ such as slavery, abuse, racism, arson, etc.

A Lawful personality is disciplined or orderly, thoughtful, thinks about long-term consequences, is deliberate, wants to make plans before charging into the Dungeon.
A Chaotic personality is whimsical and haphazard, doesn’t care about cause-and-effect, can be reckless and free spirited, gets bored easily when nothing exciting happens, wants to hit the Red Flashing Button to see what happens.

Neutral is for cases that are none of these. A character who is defined by envy for something and is practically obsessed with it really isn’t Good nor Evil, Lawful nor Chaotic. A character who just loves being in Nature and the balance of ‘The Earth’ is Neutral on at least one part of the Alignment axis. Characters who believe in a certain destiny would have Neutrality in their Alignment. There are all sorts of moralities that don’t necessarily fall on the Good or Evil dichotomy, such as Motherly, Entrepreneurial, or Hippie. There are all sorts of personalities that are neither Lawful nor Chaotic, such as obsessed, comic or morose.

Anyway, each player has to define Alignment for his or her own PC. And no player can dictate to another what is good or bad. How dare you, for example, argue that my LG Paladin might believe slavery is permissible because the Law here says it is. Or other some such nonsense.


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For practical reasons, the system does outline what typical alignments behave like. Because of the nature of the game, there's gonna be plenty of grey areas players might find themselves in that can't be described in the system. Tables just have to figure that out with intuition.


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I actually feel like I disagree with almost everyone on Law vs. Chaos sometimes, but this thread seemed pretty focused on the Good vs. Evil stuff, so I managed to sidestep it.

To me, ethical Law vs. Chaos is more about the "means" through which you seek the moral Good vs. Evil "ends". A Lawful character thinks the best path to whatever he wants is by following a code/ruleset, a Chaotic character thinks the best path needs to be flexible and without many or any checks on his behavior. But like, that's just how I run it. There are as many interpretations of Law/Chaos as there are gaming groups. :P


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Kobold Catgirl wrote:

I actually feel like I disagree with almost everyone on Law vs. Chaos sometimes, but this thread seemed pretty focused on the Good vs. Evil stuff, so I managed to sidestep it.

To me, ethical Law vs. Chaos is more about the "means" through which you seek the moral Good vs. Evil "ends". A Lawful character thinks the best path to whatever he wants is by following a code/ruleset, a Chaotic character thinks the best path needs to be flexible and without many or any checks on his behavior. But like, that's just how I run it. There are as many interpretations of Law/Chaos as there are gaming groups. :P

Law/chaos defines behavior like good/do just in different ways. I agree with your description, although chaotic characters can definitely have a code. Liberated champions are the easy example. Chaos is probably the hardest alignment to define.


I think a Chaotic character can totally have a code, though I don't think that code can really influence them beyond what they wanted to do anyways--at least, if it does so, it makes them a little less Chaotic (sort of like a Lawful character can occasionally break their own rules). I'm not a huge fan of Liberators, but I'm glad others get to enjoy them!


Kobold Catgirl wrote:

I actually feel like I disagree with almost everyone on Law vs. Chaos sometimes, but this thread seemed pretty focused on the Good vs. Evil stuff, so I managed to sidestep it.

To me, ethical Law vs. Chaos is more about the "means" through which you seek the moral Good vs. Evil "ends". A Lawful character thinks the best path to whatever he wants is by following a code/ruleset, a Chaotic character thinks the best path needs to be flexible and without many or any checks on his behavior. But like, that's just how I run it. There are as many interpretations of Law/Chaos as there are gaming groups. :P

I hope this doesn't count as a derail, but I'm inclined to agree with you, or at least I seem to. I feel like describing Law and Chaos as personality types misses the mark as much as if Good and Evil were defined by kindness and meanness. I don't perhaps focus on Law and Chaos as the means to the Good/Evil ends, but that is very much a part of it. I see Law vs. Chaos as a society vs. self argument. A Lawful person believe in doing as the 'ought' according to the rules established by the 'group' (maybe an actual society, maybe an organization, etc.). Chaotic people by contrast believe in doing primarily as they want to, even if it conflicts with what their society tells them.

To sway Good or Evil is a matter of whether you believe in helping others or helping yourself primarily, so certainly Law/Chaos can represent the way you go about doing good or evil. Lawful Good believe in doing what is best for their society and group, and also believe in doing good according to the code that guides them.

Does that make sense?


A code a lawful character might have would be very different than one a chaotic character might have. It would probably be more related to the good/evil aspect of their alignment. CN characters have the least reason to have a code but it could be something simple like respect for nature. LN characters have a code for a codes sake. Have I said code enough?


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Like a respect for individual freedom could be considered a CG position


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I guess by "means", I meant it's sort of about your interpretation of how to do good/have fun/do what you want.

A Chaotic Good character can have a code, but will also believe, to quote Rich Burlew, "Words aren't more important than people." When it comes down to it, to be fully 100% Chaotic Good is to trust your personal opinions, your gut. A Chaotic Good judge easily breaks precedent to do what's right. A Chaotic Good knight casually disregards chivalry to help the innocent. A Chaotic Good doctor injures his patient to keep them from hurting others.

A Lawful Good character can hate the law and reject all masters, but she will hold herself to some ruleset that goes beyond her own immediate opinions. A Lawful Good watchwoman will detain a man she knows to be innocent because she doesn't think she knows best how to judge an innocent man. A Lawful Good Bellflower Networker will refuse to cooperate even briefly with the Hellknights, even if her refusal might hamper her efforts in the short-term, because She Doesn't Talk To Cops. A Lawful Good journalist will share an explosive story that could put people in danger because she believes the truth is always for the best--even if it's not immediately clear to her how it could help in this case. She trusts the system. She trusts her code.

A Lawful Good character trusts her ethics to lead her to Good ends. A Chaotic Good character trusts his gut.

And yes, I'm deliberately invoking some very stereotypically "chaotic" roles--the rebel, the journalist--because they are not inherently Chaotic at all. Rebellion against an evil government is neither Chaotic nor Lawful--it's Good. Calling out lies from corrupt authority figures is neither Lawful nor Chaotic--it's Good.

I really think the idea that "Lawful is not Legal" just has not stuck with people like it should. I know some actual anarchists who are the most frustratingly Lawful people I've ever met--from time to time, I've been one of them.

Grand Lodge

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There are a lot of very productive ideas and interpretations here for me to mull over — thanks guys, great contributions.


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Trusting your gut is definitely a chaotic thing. "Do no harm to innocents" is probably something CG characters would adhere to. I guess a chaotic character could break that for some greater act of good. Probably not anything drastically evil though. Causing a panic by shouting fire to help some innocent prisoners escape even if a people might be injured could still be CG. So basically, they can make exceptions as long as the goal remains the same.


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But yeah, LG characters can definitely still play revolutionaries and take part in prison breaks. LG characters also don't have to be likeable or charismatic. They just need to be good and lawful, especially when it counts. A favorite trope of mine is characters that are real jerks when you meet them but then absolutely risk their lives for others.


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W E Ray wrote:
There are a lot of very productive ideas and interpretations here for me to mull over — thanks guys, great contributions.

This is such a healthy attitude to bring to an alignment debate. It's interesting to see other people's reads on stuff.


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Kobold Catgirl wrote:

I guess by "means", I meant it's sort of about your interpretation of how to do good/have fun/do what you want.

A Chaotic Good character can have a code, but will also believe, to quote Rich Burlew, "Words aren't more important than people." When it comes down to it, to be fully 100% Chaotic Good is to trust your personal opinions, your gut. A Chaotic Good judge easily breaks precedent to do what's right. A Chaotic Good knight casually disregards chivalry to help the innocent. A Chaotic Good doctor injures his patient to keep them from hurting others.

A Lawful Good character can hate the law and reject all masters, but she will hold herself to some ruleset that goes beyond her own immediate opinions. A Lawful Good watchwoman will detain a man she knows to be innocent because she doesn't think she knows best how to judge an innocent man. A Lawful Good Bellflower Networker will refuse to cooperate even briefly with the Hellknights, even if her refusal might hamper her efforts in the short-term, because She Doesn't Talk To Cops. A Lawful Good journalist will share an explosive story that could put people in danger because she believes the truth is always for the best--even if it's not immediately clear to her how it could help in this case. She trusts the system. She trusts her code.

A Lawful Good character trusts her ethics to lead her to Good ends. A Chaotic Good character trusts his gut.

And yes, I'm deliberately invoking some very stereotypically "chaotic" roles--the rebel, the journalist--because they are not inherently Chaotic at all. Rebellion against an evil government is neither Chaotic nor Lawful--it's Good. Calling out lies from corrupt authority figures is neither Lawful nor Chaotic--it's Good.

I really think the idea that "Lawful is not Legal" just has not stuck with people like it should. I know some actual anarchists who are the most frustratingly Lawful people I've ever met--from time to time, I've been one of them.

Ah, hmm. That is very interesting. I think we at agree at least halfway if not more. I must consider these insights. I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about Law and Chaos in relation to the social structures around people, hence in terms of collective vs. individual. It is refreshing to see some agreement on the point that Lawful does not equal Legal, though I'm not sure I'm 100% with you on the precise relationship between Law and personal codes--but it's not very far off and worth contemplating for me.

I am very interested in seeing Champion Codes for the neutral alignments, so I'm enjoying level-headed and well-reasoned discussions of what people think Law and Chaos mean to people on their own.


I really like alignment as a tool for analyzing motivations and limits--how far a character will go and the way they think they can best achieve what's right. My favorite kind of paladin is the one that struggles as much with Law vs. Chaos as with Good vs. Evil--the conflict between doing what's right, which isn't always clear, and following their code, which always is but isn't as important. I really liked Tales of Wyre, is what I'm saying.

Grand Lodge

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Opsylum wrote:
...the rules as written can, if we're playing fast and loose with them (in a manner unintended by the game's creatives), condone a champion of a lawful good deity partaking in genocide, with the consequence of "adherence to [Torag's mandate] will result in the character soul going to [Heaven]." Assuming we both agree genocide is evil, that's...jarring.

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

Norade wrote:
Why do you draw a line between monsters and things that are only superficially "people"? If monsters are intelligent shouldn't they also have the same degree of freedom as anything else in that universe? Do you just get squeamish killing things that superficially look like you but tack on some extra limbs or a non-human body plan and that goes away?

While I agree with you, I don't know that Paizo does. An example is the rules for bane weapon runes. Not only do the designers not include bane for humanoids, they specifically say you cannot do it. Ignoring the fact that they have zero power to make such a ruling for anyone's game other than their own, it seems to suggest some level of difference between the view of humanoids and their "humanity" and everything else which could be coined "monsters." Sentience, intelligence, etc. do not seem to impart "monsters" the same rights as most humanoids.

W E Ray wrote:
No One Can Tell Another gamer how to define morality for his or her PC. One Player’s feeling of what LG means can be different than another’s. You do not have the prerogative to tell another person right from wrong.

I agree with you, from a general community-wide perspective, up to the point of the GM getting involved. At the end of the day, it is their campaign and they have to be the arbiter of the alignment system. Since we (gamers) have been arguing about the nuances of the system for more than half a century, I doubt we are going to resolve a universal system now.

While one player cannot tell another player what is definitely good vs evil, or law vs chaos, the GM has to. At least within the scope of their game. If a player's view does not align with the GM's, then there has to be a compromise (if the GM is willing), the player has to adopt the GM's view, or they have to walk away.


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Reducing it to a matter of "sapience doesn't afford monsters rights" seems to disregard fantasy's and science fiction's time-honored practice of characters and creatures representing something other than individuals. An American Tail's cats and Babadook's, well, Babadook, aren't meant to be taken as real people so much as representations of broader concepts. The mass eviction of a whole species from America would be troubling in its implications... if the cats weren't clearly serving as allegories for bigotry and antisemitism rather than an actual ethnic group.

Tiger doesn't count because he's explicitly framed in an extremely different light and is not really a part of any metaphor. Sometimes Don Bluth just adds in dumb stuff.

It's honestly very difficult to gain anything substantive from most art, or even to critique it, if we insist on taking everything hyperliterally--especially in fantasy, horror and sci-fi.

The concept of the "monster" has such a complicated and fascinating relationship with folklore and fantasy and human consciousness. It's sad to see it reduced to such a one-track approach. Cthulhu and the Babadook and the One Ring are not people. They're characters, they're beings, they have personalities and agencies, but they are not meant to represent people, and trying to treat them like people completely misses the point of the works themselves. Sometimes we term people "monsters" to justify xenophobia or oppression, but that's not the only way the idea of the "monster" has been expressed--not even close. Who's going to suggest that the Babadook is supposed to be an oppressed minority group?

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