Comments on 2009-07-04 Organized Good is an Oxymoron

Too bad I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. That makes the discussion more difficult.

Sorry about the length of the post. I usually try to write short posts. I hate reading long rants myself. I got carried away and had no time to make it short (”je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte” [1]).

I also have some ideas similar to Jeff’s Threefold Apocalyptic Alignment System – a page in my notebook listing various ideas under Order, Chaos, and Neutrality. Surely a blog post for later. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-07-04 00:01 UTC

I’ve always felt the “fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity” quote makes perfect sense. After you fight, there is peace (eventually). Likewise, just where do you think virgins come from? If two former virgins have 3+ kids between them, the total number of virgins has at least temporarily increased. (As a sidenote, my favourite quote from Jerome is, “The only good thing about marriage is that it produces more virgins.”)

Swordgleam 2009-07-04 01:51 UTC

Interesting thoughts. I mostly agree with Alex.

Many RPGs and game supplements have a very childish view of good and evil. Evil organisations just striving for world domination or gods that just want to spread hatred or murder are ridiculous. Or some races like elves beeing good and some like orcs being evil despite their long history of mutual slaughter and atrocities.

Some simple definitions of good and evil that work in my games are:

evil = the end justifies the means

good = it doesn’t

So in that sense both Hitler and Roosevelt were evil, whereas Gandhi was not.

Another simple definition, more in the tradition of Christian religion is:

evil = selfishness

good = altruism up to self sacrifice

On a personal level I totally disagree with this definition, but it works quite well in games.

At the gaming table, I think, moral ambiguity, dilemmas and shades of grey are much more interesting than simple definitions of good and evil.

True moral dilemmas provide interesting roleplaying opportunities, but can also lead to player vs player or player vs DM conflicts. Just avoid pseudo moral dilemmas like the ones that are popular in Hollywood movies. If a village can only be saved by sacrificing a virgin to the dragon but the sacrifice can be avoided by killing the dragon in the last minute, it is not a moral dilemma because the course of action is obvious. Only if the dragon clearly is unkillable a moral dilemma arises.

Another moral dilemma I like is the conflict between loyalty (say to a church, organization or a liege) vs individual values. What if the PC’s overlord orders him to kill an invidual because it is clearly evil or adheres to an evil organization but the PC sees no evidence of that or actually disagrees. Now the PC is right into the dilemma of the German Wehrmacht soldier ordered to shoot some partisans or Jews. Does he go along by telling himself that it is for the ’greater good’ or that he doen’t really have a choice? Or does he object and face all the consequences?

Of course not all players like true moral dilemmas. Many feel much more comfortable with clear and simple divisions between the good guys and the bad guys. So make sure that your players actually are open to such true questions of morality before you set up your paladin of Pelor with the task of slaughtering a village of ’evil dragon worshippers’.

– Peter 2009-07-04 06:53 UTC

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