02 December, 2010

The Evil That Men Don't

In some published game settings, mostly those which are relatively newer, it's been quite popular to say that not all members of the traditionally evil humanoid races are evil. In some cases, a majority are even shown to be quite the opposite. I'm generally of the opinion that such things occur for mostly two reasons. Either the author is desperate to be different, or it's a reflection of Western European apologism.

Be that as it may, I'm curious what the other DMs out there do in their own games. Are all your orcs, goblins and kobolds evil?


Timeshadows said...

I portray everyne as having strong tendencies:

Humanity has a strong organising, fascist, and dynastic tendency. Aelbaan have a strong hedonistic, amoral, and calous tendency. Abbekqorru as having a strong honour-bound, leagalistic, and animistic tendency. etc.

When these tendencies and culture-goals clash (even intra-species), sparks fly and blood flow.

--Is that 'new school' of me?

Cole said...

I think the roots of it have much more to do with the increasing popularity of Orcs, goblins, etc. as player races.

NetherWerks said...

Good question. I've always seen alignment as a sort of moral inertia that intensifies through character's actions, etc. Arbitrarily making an entire race all one alignment is usually daft, unless that race is somehow constructed, force-grown, or bred like cattle or fighting dogs by wizards, engineers, or whatever.

Cultures and societies can have overarching alignments, but individuals ought to have some leeway in how they deal with this--a decent person in a bad place, a right bastard in the midst of a hippy-fest, whatever.

If the creatures are descended from truly inhuman things, and are intrinsically alien and not just dressed-up neanderthals, australopithicus, florensi, etc., then all bets are off and applying human morality to them is foolish and probably a good way to get killed. Take trolls, for instance, trolls are neither good nor evil--they are hungry or not hungry.

Evan said...

My orcs are created when evil witches and wizards take the souls from men and make them into half-animal monsters.

Goblins are corrupt, devil-worshiping descendants of dwaves.

Mites (from the FF, I don't use kobolds anymore) spawn from the very stone of evil places.

So yeah, monsters are evil.

Trey said...

I think NetherWerks covers it well, though I would also add I've historic tend to de-emphasize (while not abandoning entirely) alignment in D&D games.

Dangerous Brian said...

Sometimes it'll a little of one, sometimes it's a little of the other.

I occasionally introduce situations where it might appear that the various humanoids arn't neccessarily evil, just perceived as such. The plight of a lot of humanoids races, hemmed into inhospitable places, watching their young die from lack of food or fuel, reminds me a lot of the plight of America's First Peoples.

In early westerns, they were without fail prtrayed as evil or worst or (at best) just the "bad guys". I can't help but think that humanoids are similarly portrayed in RPG's. And yes, that attitude does grow from western apologism. Without question.

On the other hand, it's fun to kill human-hating monsters by the dozen without having to worry if their just trying to feed their babies. On these occassions, the humanoids are just born (0r raised) evil, much as Evan's are, and that's the end of it.

Mostly, it depends on the style of campaign I'm wanting to run.

Sean Robson said...

I agree with Netherwerks. I've always held that intelligent races behave according to their environment and upbringing, not that some races are genetically predisposed to evil (unless bred to be so, as previously mentioned).

I consider this to be a logical extension of Gygaxian Naturalism and I find that this leads to far more interesting circumstances in play than the strict black-and-white, we're good and they're evil mentality.

migellito said...

Excellent input everyone, thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Effectively mine are all evil. Not as an absolute rule for every individual, I just haven't yet needed to go there. What I've seen of making traditional foes good guys has sometimes felt contrived or preachy.

I do think "evil" sometimes needs defined or grounded in the game world, instead of only being a line in the MM. If orcs raid, pillage and eat the flesh of their enemies then, you know, evil. Better still, if an orc has to kill a predator or enemy warrior to come of age and has to capture his first mate from another tribe or race to breed, then, again, evil. I'm not going to worry much about moral relativism in relation to D&D alignment

satyre said...

Most of my humanoids are definitely evil. I play races as written as dominant groups with deviations from the norm for colour or plot.

Some are the product of a harsh environment that teaches being red in tooth and claw. Others have gods and traditions as exemplars.

Moral relativism works as a change of pace but without a baseline, a contrast may lack kick.