For those that have played within the nine alignments, do you find yourself attempting to objectively define Good and Evil in such a manner, or do you stray from the concept all-together?
For those that have created a homebrewed fantasy setting, is there a method you use to objectively define that which is “Good” and “Evil” on a celestial level as well as mortal level?
For my players, have you found a surefire method to fit a character into the concepts of “Lawful Good” and “Chaotic Evil” or simply “Good” and “Evil” perfectly? Do you think it is even possible?
Alignment to me is more of a question about action than it is about motivation. Knowing strong values is different from upholding strong values. Having good intentions is not the same as doing good. Though good can come from evil actions, the person who has the balls to do them is not a good person. Both good actions and good intentions need to line up for me to really consider a character “good” in the classic sense.
A lot of villains can think they’re doing good in their own minds, but if the actions they take end up hurting others, spawning chaos, and fertilizing destruction, they are still evil. It doesn’t matter if their intent was to better the world, because if they’re wounding it in the process, they are not good.
I’ve played a range of alignments, mostly by accident. I play characters first and figure out their alignments later. I would argue Law and Chaos on the scale help to flavor how a character’s tendency towards good or evil interacts with the world. Lawful characters tend to learn and do things by the book; chaotic characters couldn’t be bothered to follow tradition. That’s a really oversimplified statement, but since this is about good and evil, not law and chaos, it’ll do for now.
Good doesn’t have to be nice. Good can be tough love and rough around the edges, but you can count on Good in a crisis. Good can be the jerk who tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, because it’s for your benefit in the long run. Good is self-sacrificing, because if even one person is better off, Good thinks it was worth it. Good will go out of its way to help someone, even if it’s inconvenient for Good or Good is busy. I wouldn’t say Good is concerned for the group so much as Good will prioritize the world outside of the self. Good takes others into consideration; Good takes responsibility; Good expects better of itself; Good pushes others to be the best they can be.
Evil can be nice. Evil can be sweet and loyal, but will backstab you when Evil benefits from it. Evil will then crawl back and legitimately not understand why you’re upset, because you have to understand, it wasn’t Evil’s fault. Evil doesn’t say sorry because Evil doesn’t see a need to. Evil doesn’t get it. Evil doesn’t care what it has to do to get what it wants. Evil is inherently selfish, but it’s more than just that. Evil thinks it knows better; Evil makes excuses; Evil will cross the line; Evil doesn’t take questions.
A view on “Good” and “Evil” that reflects action over motivation. While this is only a piece, I recommend you all read the full text located here, as it is excellent.
Actions are the best definition for intent, representation of character, and concrete moments to color a player character. Through the malleability of tabletop, dependent only upon how long the game is run, a character would be tested many times through their actions.
Within this, the question still begs to be asked, is there such a thing as “Objective Good” or “Objective Evil” in a tabletop setting? Is there a singular action that is always a good one, and one that is always evil? More importantly, is there a motivation that is always good or evil?
Expanding upon that, it may not particularly be a bad thing if we cannot define a specific “Good” or “Evil”. As every game is different, and every player is a different storyteller within the games, the concept that there may not be one answer to this question would only strengthen the game.
But I’ll propose the same question here as I did to Ms. S-P-B, do you think it is possible to define objective good and evil in a fantasy setting? Or are the “Good” and the “Evil” simply how we act out the other side of the nine alignments?