Forums Gaming Chat Roleplaying Discussion: Can Good Aligned Characters Cast Spells With The Evil Descriptor?

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This topic contains 61 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by  Pencil-Monkey 1 year, 1 month ago.

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  • #643425

    Chewzter
    • Posts : 193
    • Orc

    I think the “evil” descriptor is there in order to clearly establish what is “good” and what is “evil”.

     

    While there are still grey areas, which are not so easy to clear, this at least gives some form of constant framework. Magic seems to distinguish between some form of values which we have arbitrarily called these names (see items that work differently for different alignments).

     

    Philosophically however, I think the alignment system is utter garbage.

     

    There is literally no difference in the motivations of a lawful good and a lawful evil character, when both of them act on the will to do the best for everyone. It just so happens, that one of them is a follower of asmodeus (for example)

     

    Similarly, chaotic evil and lawful evil are also very similar, they just differ in the amount of power the individual has.

    After all, a goblin who subordinates himself to a stronger person is acting “lawful” isn’t he? And a goblin chief suddenly is the leader, so shouldn’t he be lawful (as in, everything he does is righteous by definition?)

     

    This might actually be total nonsense, I just tried to look at it from another angle.

    #643426

    Slartibartfast
    • Posts : 905
    • Gelatinous Cube

    Going back to one of PM’s points earlier on, if there are too many hurdles stopping Nick’s friend playing a Good necromancer, why not let him have a level of self delusion, believing he is a good person, acting like a nice guy. 

    Slowly over the story arc his character’s good intentions mixed with the forbidden lore he wields corrupts him as he finds himself debasing himself for the greater good. 

    He would start out Good. 

    He would probably believe he was a good person until the end. 

    He could use necromancy to defeat evil, and it would make a great story!

    #643427

    Hal
    Admin
    • Posts : 7749
    • Treant

    There are a lot of conversations about similar topics on the net and I think the crux is really in the intention of the spell descriptor. From the quote I posted earlier it really seems that it is designed as a system mechanic rather than an indicator that hooks into the alignment system. The more I think about it it is really no different than the Fire descriptor or the Mind Affecting descriptor. It is used so that something can have resistance or vulnerability to it or that some other rule can hook onto it.

     

    I think at this point I would rule that the intention and the actions that led to the casting of the spell (as well as the target, with respect to the animating of the dead) would have more effect on the alignment of the character than the descriptor on the spell. I have yet to really find anything official that says that spells with the evil descriptor are evil to cast. There are things that say the energy that powers them is negative energy but then again, is that inherently any more evil than electricity for example?

     

    I think it might be a good character. One that starts out with intentions of using necromancy in a good way but who has to constantly guard against the temptations of using the power in ways that would erode his moral values.

     

    Hal :hal:

    #643428

    Slartibartfast
    • Posts : 905
    • Gelatinous Cube

    Sounds good.

    #643429

    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    I am happy with animated animals but it may cause issues in towns and the like.

    This leads to a different problem: What constitutes an animal? If a druid had Awakened a camel and given it human intelligence, would it still be okay to animate it after it died? What about a wizard’s familiar? If you define ‘animals’ as ‘creatures with an Intelligence below 3’, then what about people who’ve suffered Int damage, and dropped to Int 2 or Int 1? Would it be okay to animate their corpses?

     

    In a game I was in, one good priest character got hold of an evil symbol which allowed him to command undead… which (according to him) as he did so to help the party was a good thing… we let him get away with it, but everyone (but him) considered it right dodgy…

    Is it even possible, R.A.W., for a cleric to use a holy symbol dedicated to a different deity? (Let alone a deity of a radically different alignment.)

    There’s a specific magic item called a Malleable Holy Symbol that’s designed to allow a user to re-dedicate it to whichever god they worship.

    Assuming this was a Pathfinder (or D&D) game, then even if the GM allowed the cleric to use an Unholy Symbol, the cleric’s power would presumably still be granted by their patron deity, and not the evil deity of the symbol; hence, the cleric shouldn’t be able to switch to channelling negative energy instead of positive (or vice versa) just by swapping out their Holy Symbol, as though they were changing the nozzle on their Dispenser of Godliness.

     

    #643430

    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    I think the “evil” descriptor is there in order to clearly establish what is “good” and what is “evil”.

     

    While there are still grey areas, which are not so easy to clear, this at least gives some form of constant framework. Magic seems to distinguish between some form of values which we have arbitrarily called these names (see items that work differently for different alignments).

    Which is explained with a moderate amount of handwavium, and the fact that in the D&D multiverse, gods are real, and so are devils, angels, demons etc. The powers of Good and Evil have their own dimensions, they affect the world much like gravity or electromagnetism; it’s not just a matter of moral ambiguity when your fully quantised Good/Evil binary state can be determined by any passing Paladin.

     

    Philosophically however, I think the alignment system is utter garbage.

    Also true. 🙂

    On a related note, how about playing a Summoner whose Eidolon has an Undead Appearance? There’s nothing in the rules about any alignment requirements to do this, and it would make for an interesting character – instead of a Necromancer who’s animating an army of corpses, you could play a character with a single (but increasingly powerful, as you level up) undead bodyguard.

    Heck, if the GM could be persuaded to allow some minor tinkering, you could even replace the Summon Monster spells and related powers from the vanilla Summoner class, with equivalent Summon Undead spells. (Normally, Summon Undead has the Evil descriptor, just like Animate etc. – but if you wanted to stick to Hal’s suggestion of using undead animals, and the GM is willing to permit it, you might be able to impose a restriction on the spell that makes it non-Evil, but you can only summon undead animals.)

    PS: Hello, @[member=”Nick T. Vegan”]! Welcome to the site. 🙂

     

    #643431

    Dungnmaster001
    • Posts : 215
    • Orc

    On a related note, how about playing a Summoner whose Eidolon has an Undead Appearance? There’s nothing in the rules about any alignment requirements to do this, and it would make for an interesting character – instead of a Necromancer who’s animating an army of corpses, you could play a character with a single (but increasingly powerful, as you level up) undead bodyguard.

    Heck, if the GM could be persuaded to allow some minor tinkering, you could even replace the Summon Monster spells and related powers from the vanilla Summoner class, with equivalent Summon Undead spells.

     

     

     

    Actually there’s a feat (srd attributes it to Ultimate Magic) called skeleton summoner that adds a couple skeletons to Summon Monster 1 and 3, and allows 1/day summoning a skeletal version of any of the existing choices. No alignment restrictions mentioned and only requires spell focus necromancy and the ability to cast summon monster. Would work with either summoner or a regular caster.

    #643432

    Daniel
    • Posts : 2850
    • Succubus

    Sorry to be a bit of a Threadromancer, but when this conversation was running my mind went back to ol’ AD&D’s Complete Book of Necromancers but at the time I didn’t realize I had the book sitting happily on my roleplaying shelf and cba to download a copy.  Now, looking for my AD&D PHB I stumbled on it so figured I’d throw in my two-cents.

     

    On page 46, the CBO Necrobros has this to say…

     

     

    Even good-hearted PCs may be tempted to use the forbidden lore, considering that many necromantic spells can be quite powerful, especially at high levels.  Is a spell inherently evil, or is it simply that it can be put to evil use?  This is a question many heroes will have to struggle with.  This ambivalence and uncertainty should be encouraged, since temptation and moral quandaries make for excellent role playing.  However … the use of criminal necromancy carries grave dangers for the caster, whether villain or player character.  While the consequences for employing black necromancy must always be kept vague and nebulous for the players, the DM needs to have a clear definition and justification of the term.

    – Complete Book of Necromancers, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition).  Chapter 4, page 46.

     

    Chapter 3 is all about the prices characters pay when using the blackest arts.  This is the direction I would take with spells with the Evil descriptor.  I would happily allow good characters to use them, however I would turn it into a roleplay experience.  Focusing on the temptation of the character and encouraging personal-conflict.  Hell, being me, if I gave the party wizard access to a book of arcane ebilness I would totally have the temptation be a constant roleplaying experience.  Have the character wake up, from a nightmare, only to find themselves clutching the tome.  When in a dire situation, calmly tell the player that their character could totally do x, y & z to save the party by using the spells found in the tome.  And so forth.

     

    Essentially, treating it like a cursed item, but without the mechanical nonsense.  A lot of players will try and take the easy route to power and thats where the CBO Necrobros comes into it.  I honestly recommend people to give it a look as chapter 3 is a gold mine of ideas.

    #643433

    Slartibartfast
    • Posts : 905
    • Gelatinous Cube

    Essentially, treating it like a cursed item, but without the mechanical nonsense.  A lot of players will try and take the easy route to power and thats where the CBO Necrobros comes into it.  I honestly recommend people to give it a look as chapter 3 is a gold mine of ideas.

     

    An excellent idea, and the CBO … sounds like it has some neat ideas.

     

    :mage:

    #643434

    Daniel
    • Posts : 2850
    • Succubus

    It definitely does.  I’ll be honest its my favourite of the CBOs to the point I even ended up half-inching one of the example NPCs from the back of it for Tropis: The Lady-Doctor Ellandra Tolbert.

    #643435

    Pencil-Monkey
    • Posts : 5728
    • Mind Flayer

    Sorry to be a bit of a Threadromancer

    *Glances at time stamps* Two weeks’ delay counts as Threadomancy, now? :O Sounds like another topic for the debate forum: Can Good-Aligned Characters Post In A Thread That’s A Fortnight Old? 😉

    Chapter 3 is all about the prices characters pay when using the blackest arts. This is the direction I would take with spells with the Evil descriptor. I would happily allow good characters to use them, however I would turn it into a roleplay experience. Focusing on the temptation of the character and encouraging personal-conflict. Hell, being me, if I gave the party wizard access to a book of arcane ebilness I would totally have the temptation be a constant roleplaying experience. Have the character wake up, from a nightmare, only to find themselves clutching the tome. When in a dire situation, calmly tell the player that their character could totally do x, y & z to save the party by using the spells found in the tome. And so forth.

    […]

    A lot of players will try and take the easy route to power and thats where the CBO Necrobros comes into it. I honestly recommend people to give it a look as chapter 3 is a gold mine of ideas.

    2011-12-26-TESB%2520080.jpg

    […] the use of criminal necromancy carries grave dangers […]

    Pun intended? 😉
     

    Hell, being me, if I gave the party wizard access to a book of arcane ebilness I would totally have the temptation be a constant roleplaying experience.

    Just like in World’s Largest Dungeon, where (sometime around episode 21) Balazaar finds a spellbook containing every Necromantic spell in the world, and gets recurring booty calls from Shar, Queen of (Evil) Boogie, during his dreams, with her trying to tempt, brow-beat and bludgeon him into using the damn(ed) thing. 🙂

     

    It definitely does. I’ll be honest its my favourite of the CBOs to the point I even ended up half-inching one of the example NPCs from the back of it for Tropis: The Lady-Doctor Ellandra Tolbert.

    Her description is also fairly reminescent of several of the characters from the PantsLoft Halloween Speshul. 🙂
     

    Background: Ellandra was born into one of the noble houses of Neverwinter. Her father was a famous Anatomist, and as a child she assisted him in his dissections. When she was 13, a disgruntled serf burned the Tolbert Estate to the ground Only Ellandra survived, but her face was badly burned in the inferno. After that disaster, she resolved to continue her father’s research, eventually joining the Anatomical Academy. At first, Ellandra focused her research on curing — or at least hiding — the horrible burns on her face She first developed false face for that purpose. As her power grew, she learned how to graft flesh from a cadaver onto her own scarred face, conceal¬ing her deformity.
    Today she still maintains a grafted face, and her skill with the Art enables her to blend the corpse flesh with her own skin exactly. She continually fortifies this disguise with multiple overlapping spells, so that it cannot be undone all at once by a single lucky dispel magic. Ellandra has maintained this “disguise” for years.
    Her former husband, Gerard Anterra, was a famous sea captain and privateer, but he tragically died in action off Nelather more than five years ago. His body was never recovered, and Ellandra was plunged into deep depression. After Gerard’s death, Ellandra devoted her life to the Academy. Ellandra now labors exhaustively at her research, secretly trying to find a way to bring her husband permanently back from the dead.
    Her close friend and confidante. Mistress Yola (detailed in her own NPC sheet), has recently cultivated a mild cruel streak in Ellandra. Even though Ellandra does not follow her friend’s fanatical religious views, she still regards Yola as a trusted ally.

    #643436

    Tulty
    • Posts : 256
    • Thri-kreen

    To throw in my two cents, in the 3.5 game I’m currently running, one of my PCs is playing a necromancer. He insists his character is chaotic neutral and in a way I can see where he’s coming from in that his actions are not diabolical.

    However, there are big reasons that I’m considering pulling him up on the moral ramifications of his actions (ie sprinkling silver dust and setting up an evil shrine at the drop of a hat to resurrect more powerful undead from his enemies).

    Firstly, in the world in which our game takes place, Necromancy is hated. Technically, it doesn’t harm the souls of the dead, as I’ve ruled that animating dead is simply infusing corpses with negative energy. But the stigma surrounding desecrating corpses, and just the undead in general, has caused some friction amongst the PCs. Hell, it once culminated in a fight which led to the necromancer’s Zombie Blackscale Lizardfolk killing two of them!

    Secondly, the odd approach his character takes to the undead. Whereas one might see the walking dead as tools, his character forms a protective manner to everything he raises, to the point that he’ll sometimes prioritise his zombies over the welfare of the rest of the Party! Any attack on them is interpreted as a deep deep slight, and has also often skirted close to violence.

    Finally, however, there’s his underlying motives. It’s his claim time and time again that be only raises the dead because he has to, but it’s abundantly clear to all that power is his driving goal; specifically, the most powerful undead he can control, which will protect and support him in combat. The distinct impression is that as soon as he achieves this, he will turn on his teammates. 😀

    Basically, there’s a player-character bleed. He, as a player, firmly believes that the D&D alignment system shouldn’t apply to him, because it’s flawed. It is, but the other players are prepared to play within it. 🙂

    I’m thinking more if a tilt towards full evil might be forthcoming!

    #643437

    Daniel
    • Posts : 2850
    • Succubus

    Ah d&d alignment. Might have to write an opinion piece on that when I wake up…

    #643438

    Hal
    Admin
    • Posts : 7749
    • Treant

    ehp4a.jpg

    #643439

    Slartibartfast
    • Posts : 905
    • Gelatinous Cube

    Before that happens …

     

    To throw in my two cents, in the 3.5 game I’m currently running, one of my PCs is playing a necromancer. He insists his character is chaotic neutral and in a way I can see where he’s coming from in that his actions are not diabolical.

    […]

    Firstly, in the world in which our game takes place, Necromancy is hated.

     

    […]

    Basically, there’s a player-character bleed. He, as a player, firmly believes that the D&D alignment system shouldn’t apply to him, because it’s flawed. It is, but the other players are prepared to play within it. 🙂

    I’m thinking more if a tilt towards full evil might be forthcoming!

     

    So he doesn’t believe in the alignment system but he insists he is Chaotic Neutral?  Hummm …

     

    Perhaps speak to the other players about how happy they are with this necromancer, if it is a hated practice in the land, considering what he is doing.  Additionally what are NPC responses to him likely to be when it gets out that he is a necromancer?  Might he have to be VERY careful to pull that kind of stuff around clerics.  Are townsfolks going to let him into the city if he has a rep as someone who can raise wights? 

     

    What? The milk’s sour again?  It’s been the same every day since that group of murder-hobos and the gentleman in the black robes with the skull-capped pimp-stick rolled into town.  Someone should do something…

     

    How is the fabric of reality going to hold up to all these Evil shrines all over the shop?  That’s the kind of thing fanatical orders of mega scary Nazi-paladins are despatched to deal with isn’t it?

     

    However a necromancer is played – I think it might be a good idea to look at the way everyone else is going to respond to a ‘non-evil’ necromancer.

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