What is good?

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What is good?

Post  Winter on Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:51 pm

From the 3.5 Book of Exalted Deeds

What is good?
Many Characters are happy to rattle off long lists of sins they haven't committed as evidence that they are good. The utter avoidance of evil, however, doesn't make a character good-- solidly neutral, perhaps, but not good.

Being good requires a certain quality of temperament, the presence of virtues that spur a character, not just to avoid evil or its appearance, but to actively promote good. As expressed in the Player's Handbook, "Good' implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others."

Good is not nice, polite, well mannered, prudish, self-righteous, or naive, though good aligned characters might be some of those things. Good is the awesome holy energy that radiates from the celestial planes and crushes evil. Good is selfless, just, hopeful, benevolent, and righteous.

Helping others

When a village elder comes to a good character and says, "Please help us, a dragon is threatening our village," the good character's response is not, "What can you pay?" Neutral might be that mercenary, and evil characters would certainly consider how to collect the most benefit from the situation. For a good character, however, helping others is a higher priority than personal gain.

A good character might ask a number of questions before leaping up from her seat and charging to the village's aid: good characters aren't necessarily stupid. A good character can be cautious, determining how powerful the dragon is and whether additional reinforcements are required, but she should never say, "Sorry, I'm out of my league. Go find another hero." It's just good sense to learn as much as possible about a foe before plunging into battle. Even more, a good character need not be naively trusting. Some might go to great lengths to verify that the elder's story is true and not some villain's attempt to lure them into a trap.

All her caution of suspicion still doesn't undermine a good character's responsibility to offer help to those in need. Altruism is the first word in the Player's Handbook definition of good, and helping others often blends into mercy in situations where a villain asks for quarter and aid. In any case, altruism is tempered by respect for life and concern for the dignity of sentient beings, and good characters balance their desire to help others with their desire to promote goodness and life.

Mercy

For good characters who devote their lives to hunting and exterminating the forces of evil, evil's most seductive lure may be the abandonment of mercy. mercy means giving quarter to enemies who surrender and treating criminals and prisoners with compassion and even kindness. It is, in effect, the good doctrine of respect for life taken to its logical extreme-- respecting and honoring even the life of one's enemy. In a world full of enemies who show no respect for life whatsoever, it can be extremely tempting to treat foes as they have treated others, to exact revenge for slain comrades and innocents, to offer no quarter and become merciless.

A good character must not succumb to that trap. Good characters must offer mercy and accept surrender no matter how many times villains might betray that kindness or escape from captivity to continue their evil deeds. If a foe surrenders, a good character is bound to accept the surrender, bind the prisoner, and treat him as kindly as possible.



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Re: What is good?

Post  Winter on Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:15 pm

Forgiveness

Closely tied to mercy, forgiveness is still a separate act. Mercy means respecting the life of an enemy, treating him like a being worthy of kindness. Forgiveness is an act of faith, a willingness to believe that even the vilest evildoer is capable of change. Good characters are not enjoined to "forgive and forget" every time someone harms them. At the simplest level, forgiveness means abdicating one's right to vengeance. On a deeper level, if an evil character makes an effort to repent, turn away from evil, and lead a better life, a good character is called upon to encourage the reformed villain, let the past be past, and not hold the character's evil deeds against her.

Forgiveness is essential to redemption. if those she has harmed refuse to forgive her, a character seeking to turn away from evil faces nothing but hatred and resentment from those who should be her new allies. Isolated from both her former allies and her former enemies, she nurses resentment and quickly slides back into her evil ways. By extending forgiveness to those who ask it, good characters actively spread good, both by encouraging those who are trying to turn away from evil and by demonstrating to evildoers that the path of redemption is possible.

Redeeming Evil

Perhaps the greatest act of good one could ever hope to accomplish is the redemption of an evil soul. Bringing an evil character to see the error of her ways not only stops her from preying on innocent victims, but helps her as well, winning her a place in the blessed afterlife of the Upper Planes instead of an eternity of torment and damnation in the Lower. While acts of charity and healing might help a person's body, redeeming an evil character helps her soul.

Holding a sword to a captured villain's throat and shouting "Worship Heironeous or die!" is not a means of redemption. Sword point conversion might be a useful political tool, but it is almost entirely without impact on the souls of the "converts." Worse, it stinks of evil, robbing the victim of the freedom to choose and echoing the use of torture to extract the desired behavior. True redemption is a much more difficult and involved process, but truly virtuous characters consider the reward worth the effort involved.

Of course, good characters recognize that some creatures are utterly beyond redemption. Most creatures described in the Monster Manual as "always evil" are either completely irredeemable or so intimately tied to evil that they are almost entirely hopeless. Certainly demons and devils are best slain, or at least banished, and only a naive fool would try to convert them. Evil dragons might not be entirely beyond salvation, but there is truly only the barest glimmer of hope.

On the other hand a good character approaches every encounter with orcs, goblinoids, and even the thoroughly evil drow with with heart and mind open to the possibility, however remote, that his opponents might some day be transformed into allies. Creatures that are usually evil can be redeemed.This is not to say that a good character's first thought in an ambush should be, "How can I redeem these poor orcs?" However, is the ambushing orcs end up surrendering, there is ample opportunity to seek their redemption.

What's the point of all this? We've been dancing around these points lately. Winter is a neutral character, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of him becoming neutral good eventually. But regarding the behavior of good characters (especially a paladin!?!) there should be no doubt that they need to tread the straight and narrow path. Killing intelligent humanoid opponents who have offered their surrender is not the behavior of a good character. Accepting or even turning a blind eye to a rationalization or "code" which condones that kind of behavior is, well, evil.
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Re: What is good?

Post  Jack Napier on Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:00 am

"So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb." - Dark Helmet, Space Balls.

I don't agree with the book's entire concept of good... perhaps Lawful Good could be like this as many players refer to lawful good as "Lawful Stupid"

I think this is written up with the intention of of pretty much forcing a group of heroes to go on the straight and narrow path, and thus more easily be put through a more linear story. Sure, there will be variations here and there, but with good characters always accepting quests presented to them because it's the "good thing to do" the end of a campaign is much easily to predict and prepare for as the DM presents quests. There is only so much free-will in D&D because when the party decides that something is a lost cause and to leave, a little girl comes running and asks you to fight a dragon and you CAN'T say no because that would be evil. Blah.

Meanwhile, it can seriously slow down the game to have to take every single goblin that says he's sorry and wants forgiveness and to be taken prisoner. Then we have to hope that they don't escape and fuck you over or inconvenience you somehow.... which many DMs would have trouble resisting. I would hope a DM would save such persistant problems for bad guys they think are actually interesting enough to force the party to fight again and again and again.


Not only this, but playing a rogue-ish character under this definition of good is tough to justify why you compulsively unlock every locked door you find or use many of your signature skills (slight-of-hand only to steal a key from an evil captor? pfft. You're just gonna end up having to kill him anyway) Yes, a rogue can be a detective or some good character like that, but really if you can't be using disable device, sneak attack, sleight of hand, bluff to really fuck with people why would you ever consider being a rogue? That's the fun stuff.

So, say the rogue isn't "good" but "neutral", perhaps even classified as Chaotic Neutral to accomidate their unlawfulness... Chaotic Neutral, I've been told time and again is a "cop-out" , perhaps because on a few occasions while playing this allignment I've rolled dice or flipped coins to decide things (between two fun ideas, never to be good or evil) and no doubt caused some problems for the party due to "interesting" behaviour... but really, if good can be so diverse and interesting, so can neutral. A Chaotic Neutral character might believe that doing good is fun, and might just relish in the applause and acclamation that comes with heroic deeds.

My character is definitely adventuring because being a hero is much more profitable and exciting than working a normal job. Strict adherance to law is the domain of his father and the Hell Knights, which he rejects fully. He also enjoys the praise and girls that come with the accomplishment of heroic deeds. Is this "good" by the game's definition? Is he being a hero because he values sentient life, etc? Fuck no. That's boyscout shit and always leads to evil taking advantage of your predictability (definitely a DM's favourite device for creating problems in the lives of good heroes) My character strives to be anything but predictable to his enemies, thus an Arcane <b>Trick</B>ster.

anyway, I'm rambling here... I think good/evil is subjective and personalities typically blend aspects of both. It's easy to get caught up on allignment issues. For the sake of a smooth-running game, I think we should just agree on general things that are taboo for "good" characters to indulge in, and decide if lesser crimes are truly off-limits. I really hope killing (or atleast allowing a horse to trample) a goblin who issued orders to kill people, and then attempt to trick and kill us doesn't mark our characters souls too much.
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Re: What is good?

Post  Winter on Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:29 am

being Lawful Good should force you to make difficult decisions sometimes, note that the above addresses this point, saying that good characters don't necessarily have to be stupid. I mean in most campaigns the characters need to accept the plot direction given to them by the DM in some sense, otherwise it's hard to make a long term plot arc work. The example of the little girl asking you fight the dragon is definitely addressed under the "helping others" section, there's nothing that says good characters can't be cautious.

As far as slowing down the game, the first thing to say is that I'm not going to argue with the DM at the table regarding his decisions about alignment. However, I think that's the price you pay in any game where you want to have genuine roleplaying interaction. If there aren't ethical dilemmas for the players to face then the game can quickly become one where alignment is largely pointless except for determining what spells work on you etc. I can see your point that every encounter presenting a moral challenge being a bit tiresome but the situations we've faced need not be so, we could just set a standing rule in the group that opponents like goblins are given quarter if they surrender and will be either tied up or told to run away in a direction where they can't sound the alarm to other baddies.

When you bring rogues into it...most actions that players think would be a problem for this type of character in terms of alignment are not actually evil but rather chaotic. This is an important distinction to make, there's nothing evil about using those skills to steal from evil npc's, cheat at cards in a bar, lie to get past guards or out of other situations...as long as you aren't causing real harm to nonevil characters, it's usually not an evil act.

So there's no reason you can't do all of those things and be "tricky" and still remain Chaotic good, although as that entry notes a good character is principally defined not by avoiding evil acts (although that is a necessity) but rather by commiting good acts such as charity, mercy, helping others, redemption, and the destruction of evil that can't be dealt with through the former.

It's for this reason I think it's a good idea to allow neutral characters in the campaign. Forcing every character to be good pushes players into making decisions they don't feel really fit their character's personality, and is an obstacle to good roleplaying and making earnest moral choices. If you lower the bar for what "good" means by forcing characters who should be neutral into a good alignment you also thereby cheapen what it means to be really committed to good.

Finally there's the point that even within the spectrum of "good" there should of course be some variation. The rogue who has a good heart but sometimes lets cowardice or avarice influence her decision making is perhaps at one end. At the other end are real heroes of good, the cleric willing to try and raise the red dragon hatchling to be good, the warrior who gives his own life to protect innocents, or the paladin who gives goblins the benefit of doubt even though he's seen countless innocents cut down by orcs in his homeland.

Enforcing high standards of what it means to be good might slow the game down a bit at times but it's also what makes it worth playing. D&D, for me at least, is fun because it allows you to play someone larger than life, a real hero who can make hard decisions that aren't possible in our real lives where we're often forced to compromise what we believe. If we compromise altruism for the sake of convenience in the game, we've given up part of what it means to really let your imagination run free in the name of fantasy. I'd still be willing to play in the game if that's what the other players want but I won't deny that it's a small disappointment.



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Enjoying this use of the board...

Post  Jack Napier on Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:17 am

On Being Cautious:

The text says that you a good character can still be cautious, but ultimately should be helping everyone in need that isn't PURE EVIL. I see this now as tricky wording for a game mechanic wherein good characters must accept all quests bestoyed on them in urgency but must be creative enough to find a way to A) be successful and B)make it fitting of their characters... all this and the DM needs to provide them with the tools required to win. It's basically "trust your DM." I trust that Matt will not put us in a situation where our level 4 party must fight a Krakken alone or with the ships guns doing most/all the work while characters all get grappled by the beast. Smile I've never been a DM, nor have I looked at many modules or campaign book, but I imagine a good one will provide the DM with the tools required to allow any party to over-come any situation in good/neutral/evil ways that are interesting to play.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-
On Good-Alignment "slow down":

I don't want to get rid of interrogations and trials, but we definitely have to work on ways that our "good" party can quickly and efficiently take prisoners, etc. I like these situations, especially when done on our message board because that way we can focus on encounters and dungeons on Sundays so we can level up and cast lots of spells, etc. Not only this, I'm a far stronger writer than I am a speaker, and love developing my character's personality. This is the reasoning behind writing a story for each level up that explains the increases in abilities, new spells.)

Had we spent time on Sunday taking the chief back to Sandpoint for a trial, and not had a chance to go downstairs and fight the wizard/sorcerer woman to get that smallest bit of XP required to reach level 4 I would've been disappointed.

-=-==-
Regarding a Lawful Good character not accepting surrender:

I really appreciate the occasional situation where a character can "snap" and do something not so good in the heat of the moment. This humanizes the characters. Ulric could be struggling with the morality of his own actions and worry about his soul and standing with his divinity. His story could be a quest for redemption and letting go of the pains from his past and desires for revenge to make a glorious future where smiting evil is no longer required.

-=-=-=-
Creative ways NPCs can speed things up without feeling cheap:


The horse trampling the chief and us jumping out of the way rather than injure ourselves trying to save him from the white horse's wrath was good in my mind, too. As it was poetic for the beast to extract revenge, and allowed me to be good in the Batman Begins "I won't kill you... but I don't have to save you." sense.


--=-=-
Making Good of the Current Situation:

Our characters should consider allowing the Goblin Druid return to Thistletop as their new leader after we clean up the corrupt leaders and other big bad guys. There's lots of possibility there for character development... our party could actually find ALLIES in that group of rag-tag goblins.

-=-=-

Chaotic Good and Damian:

For my character, I want to roleplay him in a way that shows his heroism growing, going from loveable scoundrel to hero of men. The best example I can think of is Han Solo... he's very chaotic neutral in the beginning (in it for the money, shooting first) and certainly chaotic good by the end of Return of the Jedi.

Damian's trying to be "good" but on the specrtum he would be just above the line separating good and neutral... enough that if you look at the whole you can say he's good, but not so blaringly obvious so that other characters might question it. Especially NPCs. Damian hates when a villain thinks he can take advantage of his good nature. He also thinks the world could be a better place if there weren't so many evil creatures trying to ruin good people's quality of life. He'd rather see dozens of goblins slain than one dead child after a goblin he let live pops out of her cloest.

-=-=-
The Last Bit:

This campaign is still in its infancy and there will be plenty of chances to play your allignment, I'm sure. Let's get some basic rules set for dealing with surrender/prisoners, and also let eachother know more about what to expect from a character's behaviour. I generally know what my character would do in most situations, and look forward to understanding the other player characters more for better synergy in and out of battle.
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chip chip DM

Post  Winter on Thu Jun 30, 2011 8:03 pm

a copper for Matt's thoughts
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