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D&D 3E
An ethical dilemma 
7th-Jun-2005 09:11 am
OK, here's the story. Our party consists of a cowardly paladin (me), LN hobgoblin rogue who has forsaken his race, a druid, a CG barbarian and a LN sorcerer who rarely shows. As we were making our way through the Silver Marches, we came upon some travelers who were being mauled by a number of undead-ish boars that were obviously some sort of creation gone awry. Two children and three adults were killed. Naturally, we vowed to find the person and make him pay for his evil deeds.

We found him, snug in his cabin, seemingly more annoyed by the inconvenience of having to atone for his misdeeds than actually upset that his creations killed people. The hobgoblin was ready to chop him on the spot. I, the paladin, was ready as well, but cooler heads (including mine) prevailed, reasoning that this necromancer was probably more than we could handle, and justice would be better served if her were to raise those he was responsible for the deaths of. (yes, he was able to raise them) The hobgoblin didn't even want them raised, reasoning that it would be through some evil magics and would only further the necormancer's aims. I didn't disagree, but I was willing to give him the chance.

If you're still interested,

The argument that ensued was, essentially, that the Silver Marches is outside any territorial boundries, and thus we had no legal authority to force the necro to do anything, and in fact, since it was in a "lawless" area, he didn't, in fact, commit any crimes. My argument was, that as a soldier of Cormyr, I was authorized to uphold the law in Cormyr, and that even though the area was not under any legal authority or entity, there are certain laws which are so universal that they would still apply. For example, accidentally causing the death of someone is illegal all over Faerun, and even in Thay a Red Wizard is supposed to make resitution if, say, a construct got loose and killed someone, even a commoner.

There were a couple of important details that monkey-wrenched the whole thing: the hobgoblin killed two of the necro's kobold hirelings, pretty much in cold blood. They were guarding the necro's residence while he was resting between raisings, and the hob just whacked 'em. Not cool, but we had run-ins with them before. Also, just after this, the hob was waiting outside while the barbarian was parlaying with him, and had his sword raised and ready to strike as the necro's door opened. He only stayed his hand because the barbarian was in the doorway rather than the necro. After this, the necro was reluctant to come out to finish his work. It was only after I gave him a guarentee that I'd protect him from the hob that he'd come out. That, and I had to threaten him. He finally came out and raised everyone he could.

So I came up with a new acronym: CRWE - the "closest real-world equivalent," which, in this case, would be a dog breeder who cross-bred, say, a doberman and a pit bull, and the offspring got loose and killed several people. I believe that the courts generally look more favorably on someone who is attempting to make resitution when he causes damage, rather than someone who sits back and waits for the law to show up. Had we met the necromancer on the road, searching for his constructs and trying to right the wrong he's done, we would have been glad to help him, but instead we had to force him to make restitution (raising those who were killed).

So, I don't really have any specific question, I'm just interested in people's thoughts on this. The hobgoblin is our friend, and I believe no one is beyond redemption and was willing to vouch for him in human society. So it's not like he was a hireling that overstepped his bounds or anything like that. Opinions?
7th-Jun-2005 01:45 pm (UTC)
Well, kobolds don't have any "legal rights" in the Silver Marches, so the hobgoblin should be safe from a legal point of view - or rather, he would be, since hobgoblins probably don't have any legal rights there, either...

I think your paladin is not required to act against the hobgoblin in any way - he just should harangue him about it and repeatedly tell him that it is wrong to kill other people (even monsters!) in cold blood when it is not obvious that they are going to attack you first.

Other paladins might not object to killing kobolds in cold blood, mind you - they are generally regarded as an "evil race". But since your paladin went out of his way to get along with a hobgoblin, standing up for the rights of other humanoids would make sense...
8th-Jun-2005 02:23 pm (UTC)
My take on it is "evil is as evil does." In other words, if a group of kobolds (or orcs, or whatever) was behaving and leaving others alone, then they should be allowed to exist. I don't believe any race is inherently evil, only that their acts make them so. In other words, I don't judge them by the color of their sin, but by the content of their character. (Wow! The philosophical implications are staggering!)
7th-Jun-2005 01:59 pm (UTC)
This is a good story.

The essential conflict was that the Hobgoblin did something you disagreed with. But hey, probably you do stuff the Hobgoblin disagrees with too. No opinions really other than that this was a cool story.

You've inspired me to post a D&D story too from our last D&D game.
7th-Jun-2005 02:02 pm (UTC)
To a Paladin, it isn't just the law that binds, but moral 'good' (from the character's perspective). You may be in unclaimed territory, but that which your good says is immoral is still immoral and should be stopped.

Heck, it isn't even the local laws that bind the Paladin, but those laws they feel are morally correct. Deposing a lawfully selected dictator can be within a Paladin's pervue, if the dictator acts immorally.

My first issue was with a 'cowardly Paladin'. Once the Paladin hits 3rd level, they are immune to fear, and Cowardice is based in fear (of consequences, of confrontation, etc.) While I applaud not playing a stereotypical lawful-stupid paladin, that doesn't seem right to me.
7th-Jun-2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
My first issue was with a 'cowardly Paladin'. Once the Paladin hits 3rd level, they are immune to fear, and Cowardice is based in fear (of consequences, of confrontation, etc.) While I applaud not playing a stereotypical lawful-stupid paladin, that doesn't seem right to me.

Whilst I'd agree in the case of fear as in the fear effect of standing up against a big creature - a paladin's god/beliefs keep him strong i nthe face of a Red wyrm, for example - I dont think (thematically at least) that a palain of 3rd level plus is necessarily immune to fear in all guises. IMO he would still be scared of losing loved ones, still fear his heart being broken when he falls for the wrong woman, scared of making a fool of himself in public.. but maybe that would be neurotic. Depends on the coward. Arguably, I could see it being more of an issue with respect to his code of honour, but as a roleplaying hook, it shouldnt be an issue. Reminds me of the cavalier in the DnD cartoon
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9th-Jun-2005 02:02 am (UTC)
Agreed. A cowardly paladin can be such, and not be effected by magical fear.

Also, I think the arguement shouldn't have just been the laws of Faerun, but what is defined as good. It is not good to murder, and the necromancer essentially murdered people. While LN can argue the official laws, it's the paladin's job to argue the laws of the higher beings/deities/etc., and of what is right and wrong.
9th-Jun-2005 11:39 am (UTC)
I disagree that it was murder. Murder is premeditated and deliberate. This was negligent homicide.
7th-Jun-2005 08:09 pm (UTC)
In this society, there's this moronic notion that if you show fear (even in the face of a legitimate threat)—or, indeed anything that could be construed as "fear"—you're a coward (hence the stigmatization of conscientious objectors). 

IMHO, that's B.S.  To me, "cowardly" implies not so much fear as selfish self-preservation.  Of course, I don't know how appropriate that is for a paladin.

8th-Jun-2005 02:06 pm (UTC)
My idea in creating the character was that he was a soldier of Cormyr (from the FR setting) who was accused of cowardice on the battlefield, but because of his family's influence, was spared a death sentence and exiled until he could prove his bravery. This happened before he turned 3rd level, so his immunity to fear hadn't kicked in yet. So saying the paladin was "cowardly" was kind of a simplification. In game terms, he's immune to the effects fear, but I see that as meaning that he can still feel fear. After all, he's not a kender.
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8th-Jun-2005 02:13 pm (UTC) - Re: Oh, and as to the kobolds
Well, the way I saw the kobold situation was that we were under a flag of truce. Believe me, I want the necro dead as much as you, but I think we all would have fallen in the fight, which would have solved nothing. There would have still been dead women and children, and he would have continued on his merry way. What really surprised me is that you, being LN, were so worried about his evil ways. That seemed to me more of an LG attitude.
7th-Jun-2005 03:05 pm (UTC)
whats done is done, i could personally see allot of inner conflict for the paladin needing to be played out in the game. the whole can good people do bad things for the right reasion? type of deal.can the paladan see others need for self preservation above what is right? is there a greater good? and what do you do when a friend does a bad thing in your eyes?in my opinion thats half the fun of playing a LG charictor.
7th-Jun-2005 03:07 pm (UTC)
I'm the GM - here's my point of view.

People acted funny after being raised only because they had been dead. Very traumatic. It changes people. Of course it also fueled the hobgoblin's paranoia. :)

The group thought they were the law and felt they were making the necromancer atone for his crimes.

The necromancer just wanted to be left alone and the shortest path to that was raising the dead people. And although none of my players will ever believe this, he also felt kind of bad about what his experiments did.

In the end, the necromancer felt the group was a bunch of self-righteous, hypocritical pricks.

The group made a big show of "making" him atone for his creations did, but were blind to the wanton killing and destruction their own companion caused (killing his horses and his hirelings).

The druid made promises that he didn't keep then acted offended when the necromancer didn't put any faith in the new ones he made.

After the hobgoblin murdered his guards and stood outside his door with sword raised to strike, the necromancer demanded the hobgoblin leave so he could perform his rituals without fear of being attacked. The group responded with a count to 10 and an ultimatium to raise the dead or they would kill him (not to mention name calling and such).

After the paladin assured the necromancer he would protect him from the hobgoblin, the necromancer raised those who needed it. AND he gave them each familty a lifetime worth of platinum.

I tried to make the necromancer amiable. I think you can be both evil and friendly. He was also smart. He knew you wanted a reason to kill him, and he did his damndest to not give one.

Later, we can discuss the shadowy voice that entralled dear Kuruk. But in fairness to the necromancer - that wasn't him. Duh duh duh...

After everything is said and done, the adventure went pretty well IMO. I really expected the necromancer to die. Everyone did a good job role-playing their characters. It'll be interesting to see what various people things of what others did.
7th-Jun-2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'm the druid. The necromancer was a pompous idiot who the druid felt was trying to shirk his duties and generally get our bile going.

But, the necromancer was forced into that position by the actions of the hobgoblin. My character just wanted to deal with one problem at a time.
7th-Jun-2005 03:21 pm (UTC)
well, seeing as Paladins are all about smiting evil and what not, and necromancers are always evil (unless you have some house rules in play about that). Creating malacious undead things that terrorize the living is evil, et cetera.

I acctually see no reason that a paladin would not kill the necromancer out of hand unless redeeming the fallen is a theme of your campaign.

I'm also not sure how local law, or lack there of, would play into the situation? Lawful doesn't mean bound by legal law, it means having a code that you follow and are bound by (it just may happen that the code might be the local law, but it isn't necessarily). Paladins seem to be better suited to following "the law of their god" than the "petty laws of man".

Can you really allow the necromancer to live? Won't he continue his ways that are destructive to life? If he promissed to do better, do you know he's not lieing? Necromantic magic just by the nature of it is harmful to life, isn't it? (pulling on negative plane energy instead of positive etc)

I tend to have a slightly different take on paladins than a lot of people (even in my group of friends) but the basic idea is that they give paladins Smite Evil as a class ability instead of Convert Evil as a class ability for a reason. Paladins can't willingly work with evil things for a reason (or is that just a AD&D2e holdover?). et cetera. Then again, because of that I tend not to play paladins so I can avoid this sort of stuff.

my 2cp :p
8th-Jun-2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
well, seeing as Paladins are all about smiting evil and what not, and necromancers are always evil (unless you have some house rules in play about that). Creating malacious undead things that terrorize the living is evil, et cetera.

I acctually see no reason that a paladin would not kill the necromancer out of hand unless redeeming the fallen is a theme of your campaign.

My reasoning was that he wasn't really a murderer, just someone whose negligence caused the death of others. His creations weren't made because he wanted to use them to kill people; they escaped and killed. I saw him as a kind of Dr. Frankenstein type of peroson. I felt that called for resitution, rather than his death. If he wasn't able to raise those he killed, then I probably would have gone after him. Problem is, even knowing little of magic, I felt he was probably way more powerful than us, and my smite evil abilities drop off rather sharply when I'm dead. Not to mention that I wouldn't want him to bring me back as one of his abominations.

7th-Jun-2005 03:28 pm (UTC)
Thoughts on the characters:

The paladin
He knowingly travelled and vowed to protect a person he knew was evil. It was for the greater good, but was also done somewhat out of cowardice. Role-played his conflicted feelings on the necromancer really well, he knew what he was doing was wrong on some level. Were I to continue GMing the group, some atoning would be necessary.

The hobgoblin
What can you say? Unswerving in your desire to kill the necromancer. But it seemed like you were doing it because you thought he was evil more than he was threatening the road. Perhaps it was just me, but I saw a parallel between your hatred for him and perhaps your hatred for your former blue dragon masters. The most interesting part was your willingness to discard the value of raising of the dead. No compromise. Very hobgobliny.

The barabarian
Initially possesed, the barabarian later accepted a gift from the shadow of his own free will. Steady and unfazed by everthing around him. It was nice to a see a player finally succumb to temptation. Handled the mind control very well.

The druid
The mouthpiece of the group who brokered the deal with the necromancer. Initially, the necromancer liked and trusted him, but later came to not believe in the young druid after he failed to keep the hoblgoblin in check as promised. He was very focused on his task of getting the children raised and succeeded in his task. Played the neutrality card well.

Like I said before... good role-playing all around.
7th-Jun-2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
Glad we've seen the last of the necromancer. He did what he said he'd do, but damn, it felt like trying to talk a river into going uphill. And as much as I despise him, I can't argue with the fact that he had his reasons to be reluctant.

A well-played NPC, someone we love to hate, with 'realistic' motivations. Not black&white like msot 'evil', which is part of the reason I love this group.
7th-Jun-2005 05:50 pm (UTC)
And as for the Paladin, I feel that SB played him with depth. Being able to see the bigger picture made the game more interesting, and my character, the druid, certainly felt that cowardice wasn't evident. It seemed more like caution, playing the long game instead of snap-reacting as other Paladins might have done.
8th-Jun-2005 01:58 pm (UTC)
Exactly. In reference to the above comment about paladins' immunity to fear, I stand by my paraphrased quote from Patton: "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country; you win a war by making the other poor bastard die for his." Plus there were other issues:
1. The necro's power was totally unknown, but if he was able to make these abominations, he must have been pretty powerful. See above quote.
2. He wasn't a murderer. His creations got loose and killed people. His negligence caused the death of others, but that doesn't equal murder. Resitution was called for, and restitution was made.
3. When I detected evil on him, he glowed only slightly. What that means is anyone's guess, but it's possible that he wasn't even "evil" in the sense that we know it.
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