Alignment self-awareness



  • How aware, if at all, are characters of their own alignment? More to the point, could a character whose stated aim is to vanquish all evil himself be evil? His methods justified in his own mind and possessed of a total lack of self-awareness.

    Thoughts in a bottle. Ta.



  • With the exception of paladins and blackguards (whose duty is to their alignment even before their deities), I think characters are not aware of their alignment numbers. That being said, it's very easy to make a concept that has an evil guy promise to vanquish evil - see the King's Men in the Old Town gangs!



  • Since becoming a DM all of my characters (npcs) are able to be not only aware of their own alignment but yours as well.

    Duh.



  • To the same level of awareness they have about their INT score.



  • @zool said in Alignment self-awareness:

    To the same level of awareness they have about their INT score.

    More awareness when they have more wisdom!

    I'd think a 8 Wisdom warrior who is Lawful Evil but believes he is fighting evil with a "fight fire with fire" mentality for the "greater good of society" is very realistic. He's not very wise, he does not understand these matters really.

    A 20 Wisdom cleric of Bane understands exactly what his lawful evil nature means. He is not a good person, he respects and acknowledges that, he disdains good because it is too weak to hold society together; people respect and obey out of fear. This is evil, but this is how the world must be.

    A 40 Wisdom demon lord understand that evil itself is the ruination, destruction of the entire world of all things, all existence, even itself. The 8 Wisdom Lawful Warrior is a naive and ignorant infant, fit only to be devoured and destroyed, the 20 Wisdom cleric of Bane is barely better than a child though, unknowingly serving not the stability of society and law, but ultimately breeding rebellion against law, lack of faith in order, while spreading mankind's own destructive seeds and fallen nature which will ultimately lead to utter annihilation of creation and reality.



  • Well clarified, cheers.



  • To the Banite,

    Slavery and cruelly enforced order is good.

    Chaos and freedom are evil.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no matter how many I kill I can never find it.



  • @smilingdog said in Alignment self-awareness:

    To the Banite,

    Slavery and cruelly enforced order is good.

    Chaos and freedom are evil.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but no matter how many I kill I can never find it.

    Not in this setting....



  • Kind of a random tangent, but I've always thought of the whole spectrum as Absolute concepts beyond the ken of mortals to truly identify as. Subjective morality is a thing to us messy humanoids, but the settings is one that includes Objective morality and, spoiler, it doesn't care about your intentions or idea of right or wrong.

    Nah, I think a character is seldom if ever truly aware of their morality unless they actively pursue a path. Monks, paladins (lawful ones) or druids are the only ones I'd ever consider being cognizant of the wider implications of alignment and their pursuing of it; even stupid or naive people in these vocations approach it with an eye towards attaining their version of perfection.

    For the others on the spectrum, it's a toolfor the PC to inform the RP of the character. A Neutral person can be benevolent or cruel or mix and match as social circumstances dictate, that doesn't mean they necessarily understand themselves to be cruel or benevolent. Just as much, I don't think, as a chaotic paladin would truly see themselves as chaotic so much as doing what others simply don't understand needs to be done;' ours isn't to question why, but to do or die.'



  • @mr-moloch
    So change the setting in v6, or rename the the most played race for anything but human.



  • in dnd alignment is even connected to planes of existence, so mechanus is lawful clockwork to the T, for instance, and their are realms of chaos as well, limbo is one; their are negative energy planes and positive energy planes, the energy of 'goodness' and 'evil' or life and unlife/neglife to some extent.

    If I were taking a real world philosophical perspective, to me ideas like taoism, druidic and nature philosophy, the I Ching ideas involving the Chao or Yin Yang symbol principle which are meant to express the idea explained in buddhism a bit as 'dualism', or the 'overcoming of dualism' in terms of 'non-dualism', or seeing things from wider perspectives than one 'axes' of judgment, for instance on a number line, the positive numbers vs negative numbers, where you can assign one quality to the negative numbers, and its opposite quality to the positive numbers, for instance, hardness and softness. Maybe light and dark is a better example, so brighter or darker.

    So the paradox comes, in that if you only have darkness of one constant nature in a situation, with nothing to contrast it with, then you cannot really define it, because we generally need to define things by comparison with other things. So that level of darkness could be a level of brightness. It's sort of like, say, being able to open a camera lens more or less, to let in more or less of the present light, or to leave the camera for a longer exposure to get more light, your perception of the level of light can (hypothetically, for living beings) need to shift to something that is meaningful to you, so if you are always somewhere bright, that may become normal, and changing to somewhere dark becomes less normal. And hypothetically, you can shift from a macroscopic to a microscale, and simply scale your perceptions to keep things in a similar scale.

    If you put your hand in cold water, and then put it in warm water, the water tends to feel hotter; if you put it in hot water, and then put it in warm water, it feels 'colder' than it might if you were to just put your hand in warm water close to body temperature and air temperature. This may be important biological feedback mechanism in order to be able to maintain an ability to detect changes in the environment.

    So talking about awareness, there is relative morality; if something is good for me, than it is good; if it is bad for me, then it is bad - without as much consideration for others. Cell colonies like complex organisms like mammals and humanoids, especially child womb incubated milk fed young are raised in part of a community where genetically the survival of young and closer family is slightly more highly ingrained- for instance, qualities like kindness and ability to provide for community /family are highly valued by mates of both sexes in humans in the real world. (But these are higher order needs that come later in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, after more basic survival needs, avoiding predators, safe climate, food and drink met, etc- in situations of constant crisis other things sometimes seem to be instinctually preferred).

    So in the case of humans and awareness, part of a person's sense of 'goodness' in terms of a universal principle, is usually thought of in ALSO considering the good of others, or COOPERATIVE vs COMPETITIVE behaviours, ie win-win... over the long term, win-win is often better in an environement with organisms that co-evolve, but some say, in the 'druidic/native wisdom' point of view, that even death is an important part of the cycle of life... and the wolf pack helps keep the deer populations from getting to large (and eating all the vegetation/food in the biosphere) by eating the diseased, weak, old, that can't survive as easily... some might even say as a kind of mercy... when deer or 'prey' populations drop, as might have happened in the ice age in the world when there was less food for plant eaters, as they prey starve or die and their numbers cannot replenish, the predators also starve, to keep only in the numbers that the prey can handle (or, like overly ambitious parasites, killing the host too quickly and then dying along with).

    So the ability to have both PERSPECTIVE and EMPATHY may help to understand the idea of 'goodness', at least in terms of understanding it for other beings.

    Brene brown shares that people generally won't/can't hurt those they feel closely with- generally people start 'othering' those they either feel they 'need' or 'want' to hurt; by making them seem more different, or somehow lacking the qualities we normally would associate with things, this gives more social permission to target that other... so like, not my tribe, but other tribe, other tribe bad... like me is good.
    Another example is the myth that animals aren't sentient, don't have any emotions, and don't really feel pain, so it is ok to kill them, skin them alive eat them etc. Science suggests this is not true, but in order to live and survive in the world where competition is necessary, for some this rationalization makes life more livable, and the cognitive dissonance of 'being good' but then doing something bad to other beings is less psychicly painful.

    So basically, the practice of trying to understand how others feel, or ideas like the 'golden rule' kinds of symmetry, or like the idea of karma or 'poetic justice', and eye for an eye, etc... teach the idea that the suffering others experience 'may be' like the suffering 'we' experience... however without much self-reflection, or practice needing to try to understand another things needs and perspective, or its life and practices being similar enough so that a mind of whatever complexity can make a clear enough metaphor about how things it can relate to from its own experience might have a similar meaning for something else in its experience (assuming you can understand it enough to make some kind of comparisons of experience).

    But predators may understand prey very well, but they don't necessarily have empathy with them; and if they do, they may well starve (there are examples of this, and also of mothers who were hunting prey, i think wild cats hunting monkeys or something, switching to mothering mode when hearing the baby's cries, because of the hormones that were in play over-riding the hunting extinct).

    So before something can have a good sense of empathy for another in a way where it can take it's perspective, it may also need to be able to have a more distinct sense of 'self', in an objective sense... like being able to recognize yourself in a mirror, and see other things in the mirror, and be able to start seeing yourself in comparison to others from a perspective that is 'outside in' in some respects, not just from the 'inside out'...

    I can't see how long this is, I might try to edit to summarize to the important points when I can see them more clearly in rereading.



  • in physics, chaos and order have some broad primordial principles that seem to recur in nature; cold and crystals allow for more order and complexity at lower temperatures and energies, at high temperatures, it may not be possible for traditional lifeforms we are famililar with to exist, or exist for long- situations are too volatile and dynamic. entropy and information are two sort of physics processes the regulate systems... and moving towards equilibrium is kind of the state of 'spending' potential energy, so in a sense, energy itself is relative, in relation to 'work possible', in that the only 'physics definition of work' possible is through a change in energy differential...

    and this was relevant because... yeah... so living systems tend to thrive, grow and evolve fastest 'on the edge of chaos' according to complexity theory (and autopoiesis, or the study of self-generating/organizing systems, of which living organisms are generally a member) so the universe could expand to the point of total equilibrium and heat death, or it could contract to a point so hot under so much pressure that dimensions fold in upon themselves and matter as we know it cannot exist (plasmas etc)

    so the point was that total law would mean a static, unchanging universe, and total chaos would be one where things were changing so fast as to not have much apparent meaning or ability to ... evolve from an intended state to another intended state, lets say, based on a sense of past and expectation of future...

    yeah and how is this relavant to coa dnd.
    aaaanyways. there are probably books on this stuff if people are interested in it.


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    @mr-moloch said in Alignment self-awareness:

    @zool said in Alignment self-awareness:

    To the same level of awareness they have about their INT score.

    More awareness when they have more wisdom!

    I'd think a 8 Wisdom warrior who is Lawful Evil but believes he is fighting evil with a "fight fire with fire" mentality for the "greater good of society" is very realistic. He's not very wise, he does not understand these matters really.

    A 20 Wisdom cleric of Bane understands exactly what his lawful evil nature means. He is not a good person, he respects and acknowledges that, he disdains good because it is too weak to hold society together; people respect and obey out of fear. This is evil, but this is how the world must be.

    A 40 Wisdom demon lord understand that evil itself is the ruination, destruction of the entire world of all things, all existence, even itself. The 8 Wisdom Lawful Warrior is a naive and ignorant infant, fit only to be devoured and destroyed, the 20 Wisdom cleric of Bane is barely better than a child though, unknowingly serving not the stability of society and law, but ultimately breeding rebellion against law, lack of faith in order, while spreading mankind's own destructive seeds and fallen nature which will ultimately lead to utter annihilation of creation and reality.

    I think Moloch sums it up pretty well here. That said, I have seen some pretty awesome high WIS PC's in the past do this schtick and pretend to be low wis dudes that encourage one thing or another, but actually focus on bluff in order to fool every one to their true intent. Ultimately, there are many takes, but if you are a high wis dude with no hidden agenda, you're self aware that the acts you commit are evil. (12 wis + as far as I'm concerned, though obviously the higher your wis, the slimmer your grey areas.)



  • @zool said in Alignment self-awareness:

    To the same level of awareness they have about their INT score.

    Stupid people might think they're smart, but smart people don't typically think they're stupid.

    I think understanding TRUE alignment is a case of having the wisdom to realize that things are as they are.

    Admitting that while good intention-ed, you are probably an evil person, is a realization that'd occur from achieving a certain degree of wisdom. Realizing that while your methods may be evil, you're still going to save everyone (whether they want you to or not) is how a villain can see himself as being the hero, while still knowing he's no saint.



  • It would definitely be a wisdom thing.

    Intelligence is knowing, but wisdom is understanding.

    An 18 int wizard would know for sure most people think animation of the undead is evil, but 8 wisdom would mean he doesn't really get why himself. It's really no different to a golem after all, and it's not like they're using the body anymore.



  • It is actually described rather well in the Forgotten Realms Avatar series, with hos Cyric slowly evolves. In the case of an evil person:

    You start off well intentioned, thinking you are off to save the world. As you travel down the adventuring road, you begin to see or realize, that you are less morally challenged. At level 1, you think of undead as disgusting, foul deeds of the most evil necromancer, and thus you smash them with zeal. However, as you progress, you experience obstacles, and you start to bend the rules of morality to overcome the obstacles in your way.

    You tell a life, you ignore a companion using a bloodstone, and at some point, you find that you have a bloodstone in your pocket. You look at your opponent, and think "If I am to win, I will have to use this foul thing", so you do. "It is either using it, or dying" you tell yourself. You use it, feel disgusted by yourself. But that disgust fades.

    You tell more lies, you betray the trust of a friend, you begin keeping the magic trinkets you find for yourself, rather than share them with those who likely need them more. You may not use a sword, but... that longsword could likely fetch a good price, and you need the gold. As you bend morality more and more, you begin to question why you are not disgusted by yourself.

    Time passes, you tell yourself lies of "The end justifies the means". Suddenly, you look down at the woman, chained to the blood soaked altar. She was your friend once, you traveled together. She called you friend. But you do not need her as a friend. You need to commit to this ritual to the demon, because you need its power to succeed. You plunge the dagger into the womans heart, and as the dark magic of the demon lord begin to surge through you, you realize... You are evil as fuck, what you did was wrong... But you do not care, for the power you can obtain, is more important than the people you must kill to claim it.

    Long story short, you at first do not think yourself evil. A lvl 1 cleric of Bane, likely believes that through strict rules and order comes good. But when you are lvl 11, with 50 evil deeds on your resume, you know that you want to rule, no matter the cost; morality is for the weak, power is for the wicked.



  • That was a quality post, I wish I could star it.