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D&D 3E
Evil acts for a good cause? 
4th-Feb-2005 04:56 am
Hello, everyone.

I'm having a bit of a delimma deciding what alignment a character belonging to one of my players should have.

Thorn has a hunger for blood. She realizes that this cannot be rightly sated on the innocent. She more or less ignores petty evil, mostly targeting a grander scale of evil; she'll ignore the starving commoner who steals bread from the local foodshop, but if the owner of that foodshop came and tool that commoner as slave labor in retaliation, Thorn would be all over that.

Her methods of dealing with the evil people in question (crime bosses, tyrannical nobility, cult leaders, jailers who abuse wrongly accused prisoners, etc.), are rather brutal and malicious. Skinning them alive, for example. Her actions against these people nearly always result in relief and security for the innocent population, or at least a sense that someone is looking out for them.

Rather than a paladin, who may take an evil person and either try to redeem them or do away with the evil quickly, She on the other hand realizes that often any repentance is false; and that a quick death is an easy copout. She believes in truly making them regret destroying the lives of others, and if it means she gets to torture them in the process, then all the better to feed her thirst for blood.

Knowing that she does her evil acts only to evil people for the greater good of the world, I'm inclined to suggest her alignment should be Lawful, Chaotic, or True Neutral. I doubt someone with an Evil alignment would genuinely work towards the greater good, even if she sees it as a partial justification for her bloodthirst.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
3rd-Feb-2005 06:55 pm (UTC)
The Book of Exalted Deeds says that evil acts for good are evil. Just by doing the evil act you're helping evil and turning a way from good.

I don't that will fit the style of every campaign. Rather, I think this reflects the Old Testament style of D&D where there are such things as absolute good and absolute evil. It's alright to slaughter the orcs, family and all, because they're all evil monsters.

I'd dump the system entirely.
If you're stuck with it (and it's a pain to change) then I would embrace it. Go with the cosmic idea of the battle between good and evil and just by doing evil you spark more of that "elemental evil" inside you (or certainly help evil's battle against good).

A D&D Paladin would have smited Frodo before he destroyed the Ring because Frodo was clearly corrupted and tained by Evil.
3rd-Feb-2005 07:13 pm (UTC)
Well, I was thinking of maybe using the Relative approach to Evil and just ignore alignments entirely; which is a pain in the ass when it comes to spells and things that are obviously objectively aligned one way or the other... but it does seem to be the only way to deal with such a situation without outright deciding that the character is evil. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that rot.

I do like the idea of the sparking of 'elemental evil'; the more you do evil things, the more likely you are to submit to it entirely; so I guess it would be an interesting roleplay experience to walk that very thin line between being a vigilante and being the very thing you seek to destroy. I need more practic with dynamic alignment changes, anyway ;)

Thanks a lot!
3rd-Feb-2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
I'd go chaotic neutral... the anarchist version of that alignment.
3rd-Feb-2005 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thing is, she's not really anarchist in the common sense of the word; she's not against law or heirarchal control, so long as it isn't detrimental to the well being of it's subjects. On the contrary, she recognizes the need for laws and government - even if she doesn't follow those laws herself.

Have you ever seen boondock saints? Thorn represents something like that, only she takes the carnage a step further and actually enjoys what she does.
3rd-Feb-2005 07:16 pm (UTC)
I was going to say lawful neutral. She has a method, she has standards, and she has a purpose. Even though she does it for good, she does it through evil means. I would therefore suggest her alignment will begin to shift towards evil if she continues.

According to the book of vile darkness, torturing someone, whether for good or evil ends, is a minor evil that a paladin might be able to detect. A mass slaughter is a medium grade evil act a paladin would definately be able to detect. Now that I think about it, Lawful Evil would probably be the correct alignment, possibly neutral evil depending on how she spends the rest of her life...

Vampires have a thirst for blood ONLY for sustenance, to keep them alive. They are always evil. Therefore, her thirst for blood of those who could be redeemed, cannot be good. Torturing or killing them at random (not having them tried and executed) cannot be a neutral act. come to think of it, since she takes justice into her own hands, aka vigilateism, cannot be a lawful act, so either neutral evil or chaotic evil. Probably neutral.
3rd-Feb-2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
In a universe where Evil is purely objective, I see and can understand your logic. However, I'm willing to take into account that there are always exceptions to any rule;

I also disagree with the standard D&D conviction that a certain species is always good/evil/neutral.

I find it difficult to fathom that a crime boss or tyrannical overlord would even *need* a trial, since their evil acts are obvious, long-standing, and out in the open and it's not like they try to hide it. Repentance for these types is often also out of the question, since they are often so entrenched in their ways that nothing short of a miracle or actually reaping what they sow will turn them around. This goes double for evil men/creatures that have been at it for a really long time.

Thorn does indeed walk a thin line, but she'd never go after someone who didn't deserve it simply out of bloodlust. She does maintain a level of control over herself...

When you get right down to it, she fights the same fight as most good-aligned characters would, it's just that she happens to enjoy her job.
3rd-Feb-2005 08:04 pm (UTC)
lawful evil, I would say.

Evil doesn't get along with Evil.
3rd-Feb-2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
Good point...
3rd-Feb-2005 08:22 pm (UTC)
sounds pretty lawful evil to me. very devilish.
3rd-Feb-2005 09:29 pm (UTC)
I'd say either Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Good.

While she might have her own ethical code, everybody has their own ethical code, and hers seems (to any casual observer, and ANYBODY who has ever written a law) all over the place, thus placing her on the Chaotic axis.

She can either sway towards the Good or Neutral axis based on how often you actually commit these "justified evils." It depends entirely on your DM, of course, to say how alignments are going to be played in his/her campaign, but if it's in your intentions, then by all means set yourself as Good.

You can pull of Neutral very easily, though, because of the compunctions to not do evil things to good people. Basically, the meter that's measuring your actions is telling you that it's good to take action against evil, but not so good to take evil actions. Basically, it balances out, and you zero out at Neutral.
3rd-Feb-2005 10:02 pm (UTC)
I would say that she is most likely Lawful Evil. She has a method and a specific code that she upholds. She does however ritualistically torture people simply to inflict pain. The only possible explanation for torturing anyone is typically to get information, which most good characters wouldn't do anyway. She, on the otherhand, tortures to fulfill a "bloodlust." She is in a sense inflicting pain because she gets off on it. You can't call that Neutral or certainly not Good by any stretch of the imagination.

Remember, just because your character's evil doesn't mean she can't have a goal of freeing innocent people and cooperating with a party.
3rd-Feb-2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
Lawful Evil for sure. I'll quote the SRD section on the topic.
"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.
Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties.
You hurt people who fall short of being good. In your mind, that is their duty. Q.E.D.
3rd-Feb-2005 10:43 pm (UTC)
Sounds a lot like The Punisher, only more diabolical. I'll agree with lawful evil. The character's really into pain and suffering, but she knows where to draw the line and how deep to draw it.

Your opening line sparked my interest, I'm thinking of running a half-vampire paladin who literally has a hunger for blood.
3rd-Feb-2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
I think people's suggestion of Lawful Evil works well. But this also seems like a definate Chaotic Good to me (odd how 'opposite' alignments can be the same... hmmm). The question is, does the character want to hurt people, but only hurts those who break the law (Lawful Evil), or does the character want to do good, and will do ANYTHING to punish evil-doers (Chaotic Good). Personally I think it would be more interesting to play the Chaotic Good version who's always on the edge of falling into Chaotic Evil: hurting people simply for the sake of hurting them.
4th-Feb-2005 02:35 am (UTC)
The Law-Chaos axis should be pretty easy to figure out here and isn't really relavent to the Good-Evil debate. The fact that she doesn't seem to care about the law, per se, suggests that she is Neutral in terms of Law-Chaos. I get the impression that she is fairly consistent and self-disciplined, but not to the point where one could call her Lawful.

Now as far as Good-Evil ... that's harder. She takes delight in the suffering of others, as far as I can tell, which is an evil trait. But she works to protect the innocent, which is a good trait. Given that she likes to torture people to death, I'd have a hard time giving her a Good appellation ... let's ask an Important Question, then:

Would Thorn sacrifice her life to save the life of an innocent? If yes, check Neutral. If yes, but only if it were someone she knew, flip a coin. If not a chance in hell, check Evil.
4th-Feb-2005 02:46 am (UTC)
Throw in another vote for Lawful Evil. The DMG makes plain that evil fights evil all the time- consider the Blood War.

Of course, that's just by the standards of D&D proper, which (as has already been alluded to) view acts as having objective morality, regardless of their subjects or the intentions of the actor. This is a very Kantian perspective, I think, and if you'd like to take a more utilitarian view, there's no reason you can't. Since you're the DM, you can easily solve this conflict (between, as I see it, the rules saying your player's character is evil and your desire to classify the character as non-evil) by simply stating that an act is good if it increases the general amount of happiness in the world or decreases the amount of suffering, or evil if it decreases the amount of happiness or increases the amount of suffering. By this view, I'd classify Thorn as Lawful Good; she acts in ways to decrease the world's suffering (and out of a desire to do so), and sticks to her particular moral code.

Actually, Kant offers an easy way out as well: Kantian philosophy views punishment to not only be acceptable but also required for justice and in order to right wrongs. Supporters of the death penalty espouse similar views- for certain crimes, the perpetrator must be killed, in order for justice to be done; any other punishment would be denying both the world at large and the perpetrator of the crime what they deserve. Thorn obviously believes that her actions are necessary to bring justice to evil individuals- i.e., that anything less than brutal torture is less than they deserve. If you can agree with that, she can be Good in alignment. (Personally, I can't, but that's me.)
4th-Feb-2005 03:01 am (UTC)
I think I'd go with neutral evil.

Neutral, pretty much following the same lines as vulpez's argument.

Evil...well most evil people/things think they're doing it for the best, otherwise they either wouldn't do it or are insane. Sometimes it might be only for their benefit but.. To use the obvious example(and taking Godwin's law into due consideration-but thinking it bollocks) Hitler thought he was doing the best for "his people"(debatable, but ostensibly that was the reasoning) but it would be hard to argue that what he was doing was right.
If you were simply applying a death penalty for their crimes then it would be more likely to fit a different alignment, but torture and the enjoyment of it, by almost all definitions would be considered evil.
4th-Feb-2005 04:54 am (UTC) - lost in a sea of comments
Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but You aren't Lawful because you are not conforming to anyones justice except your own, so Neutral and You are killing evil, but in an evil way...

I use the tendency system, which gives you a small list of sub personalities under alignment. You could go Neutral Good with evil tendencies....

The small list is

Good Tendencies
Evil "
Chaotic "
Lawful "
Neutral "
Psychotic "
Anti-Social "
Bipolar "

This adds in for those abnormal characters we all want, and those crazy ones we play to ease the stress.. enjoy.
5th-Feb-2005 02:06 am (UTC) - Re: lost in a sea of comments
I disagree on the lawfulness point. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but my understanding is that at least as far as third ed goes, "lawful" does not mean "following the laws of others", but rather adhering to a personal code or standard. Were this not the case, there would be no such thing as Lawful Evil, at least within non-evil communities; the "law vs. chaos" axis would be entirely relative to location, in essence. As I see it, the character is definitely lawful.
5th-Feb-2005 05:56 am (UTC) - Re: lost in a sea of comments
You're right about Lawful not needing to be boiund by the laws of others. One need only follow ones own personal code, strictly and always, to be lawful. In short, you make your own laws and follow it to a T because you believe in it.

However, I don't see this character as Lawful at all. Regardless of whether or not she has a personal code, every alignment technically has a personal code. This "code," if it c an be called that, loops back and forth upon itself and, by what I can gather, sometimes contradicts itself.

Which is, essentially, chaos.
4th-Feb-2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
I think I'm going with the Lawful Neutral vote.

"Lawful characters tell the truth, keep their word, respect authority, honor tradition, and judge those who fall short of their duties."

"Chaotic characters follow their consciences, resent being told what to do, favor new ideas over tradition, and do what they promise if they feel like it."

This almost makes me think she is Neutral because she is both lawful and chaotic, but I still lean towards Lawful.

"People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships."

Yes she performs evil acts such as torture, so she is definitely not Good, but is she evil enough to tip the scale?

I vehemently disagree with the "relative alignment" method. "What if what he's doing is evil but is good in his mind?" I don't have a problem with that philosophy, but I don't think a character's true alignment deals with that. I always think of the good/evil component as more karmic. Assume there is are fundamental good and evil, regardless of belief or perspective. Plus, think of what it would do to magic if everything were relative. Basically, any alignment descriptor would become a mental or mind-affecting descriptor because it would depend on what the person believes. Ug. Belief is important and has social remifications, but (IMHO) alignment is meant to be an objective view of a person.
4th-Feb-2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
I have to uphold the Lawful Evil arguement. While certain people might not think this is 'truly evil' because it is for a good cause, the acts of evil would effect the character when dealing with things where alignment actually makes a difference--no god would let this cleric turn undead, no intelligent sword with a good alignment would allow this character to hold it if it could stop it, etc.
6th-Feb-2005 05:15 am (UTC)
A hunger for blood doesn't necessarily attribute to the good/evil thing so let's drop that.

I'm going to say Chaotic Neutral or CE on my better judgement . Chaotic good is generally compared to Robin Hood. Robin Hood follows his own code of 'Steal from the rich and give to the Poor'. There were poor families having to hunt in the royal forests just for food but he didn't condem them, yet he'd stick the ruthless taxcollectors (the Sherrif) at any chance he could get.

The above scenario sounds alot like your character's situation however I think she is a little more ruthless Mr. Hood here. Your character goes past the 'good' line with the torture routine.
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