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Fun Question: What is the nature of the evil alignments?

Baron Malthius
This is something I always like discussing with my D&D/Pathfinder friends a fair bit. I figured that given the (sometimes very heated) disputes on what constitutes playing an evil alignment and the fact that companies such as the ones we have at Hope's End are trying to promote additional variety in this realm, this would be an appropriate topic.

This is meant to be a lighthearted, thought provoking discussion that may hopefully benefit everyone. The question is how do we define what kinds of things define the three different types of evil alignments and what variations are possible within them?

I ask this because there is a lot of growth to be had when any evil alignment is role played well. Defining what "role played well" means of course is a difficult task in itself. We all have our own ideas of how each of the alignments are meant to be played so what do you all think?

As for myself, I think that for someone to role play evil, they need to think outside the box and avoid making stereotypes. While those can be played good as well, I don't really think it captures the essence of what those alignments truly imply. To me each of those is more like an attitude, mind set, or state of being for the character regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in. Sure their actions have to match their alignment on the whole but that doesn't mean there is no flexibility. The question then of course is where does one draw the line?

For example, Chaotic Evil to me for example doesn't mean that one is incapable of using common sense and obeying rules when it happens to be in their best interest. It means that given the chance they will flaunt them and even if they must do so they will do it begrudgingly. It also means you just prefer to do whatever the heck you want regardless of consequences or harm that may or may not come to others. While that can take a somewhat nihilistic turn depending on how you play it, it definitely does not require someone to be an omnicidal maniac bent on worldwide destruction to do so. I'm not sure if I personally would ever play a chaotic evil character someday, but in the right hands I'm sure someone can make it work while still promoting good gameplay (either in a tabletop or MMO setting). They are basically more or less people who are in it solely for themselves and could care less about anything or anyone else. IRL I think you would find a lot more Chaotic Evil people than you might think.

For the others, I consider Lawful Evil to be the most rules oriented and more subtle, preferring to work in (or establish) an ordered system. This does not preclude from thinking outside the box though. It does also seem to be the easiest to play since establishing a strict code of conduct and a preference for order in almost all cases. They would go out of their way to make such an ordered system to channel their evil through, or work an existing one to get what they want. Again, to me it is more of a mindset than just whether they obey laws or not. Anyone can obey laws or a personal code of conduct, it is how they go about it and whether they prefer it or not that makes the difference.

Finally, I think of Neutral Evil as more or less the pragmatic evil. Granted, I am kind of biased as that is the kind of evil I prefer to play as, but still, I see it as an evil who is equally comfortable in both settings. It also has the most wiggle room I think cause it is easier to lean more towards one or the other while still being willing to switch things up should it suit your goals better at the time. For example, my company is more or less very Lawful leaning but I do prefer we have some more flexibility and not be completely tied down by technicalities. Hence the more pragmatic approach. Now this does not mean that all is negotiable since, as I said in my recruitment thread, there are definitely rules both within the company and the League that are expected to be obeyed and we are not free to reinterpret them as it suits us. Outside of that though things can be flexible without having to go through all the red tape to clear it.

So those are my thoughts on the kinds of evil there can be in role playing games. These are my thoughts alone, and I am doing this in hopes of having a thoughtful and respectful discussion. I am really interested in hearing what others have to say and who knows it will help us all understand what we all mean when we say we are (or someone else is) playing an evil character.
Banesama
I rarely play evil but when I do I either go LE or NE, I never choose CE. I just can't roleplay Chaotic very well. But for me, the character's action is only a part of the equation, sometimes the lesser part. What really determines evil is the motivation behind the action. I've often played evil character that have done things that seem for the cause of 'good' but the personal motivation behind the action was purely selfish and often part of a grandeur evil scheme.
"I'm a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whiskey for three, and enough women for four."
Walter Slovotsky
Thorgrim Foegrinder
In Pathfinder tabletop, the alignment system is a 2-axis system: Good vs Evil and Law vs Chaos. On the Good vs Evil axis, Evil can be described as taking actions for personal gain without empathy for others and how they are affected, while Good generally focuses on empathy for others above personal gain. On the Law vs Chaos axis, the focus for Law is to follow some set of structured order, whether that's local laws of the land or a personal code, and Chaos defies order and is more whimsical and erratic. Combinations of both result in 9 distinct alignments.

In Pathfinder Online, there is a third, hidden axis: Positive vs Negative Gameplay - and it pertains to the player, not the character. In Pathfinder tabletop, your evil character can be as much of a jerk as you want it to be, and as long as everyone around the table is having fun there's no problem, but in Pathfinder Online there are real consequences for how actions are perceived. Because the Positive vs Negative axis is separate from Good vs Evil in Pathfinder Online, empathy for the player must be separated from empathy for the character. My description of each of the Evil alignments below should be taken with this in mind.

Lawful Evil: Follows a code, acts without empathy toward other characters. Examples might be a trader who only focuses on personal profit, but follows a code in dealing with others so that his reputation is maintained and people keep buying from him. No empathy is given to other characters beyond that, so any company he is in is likely not to see any benefit beyond what is required, whether that's taxes or some other cut of deals made in exchange for a place for the trader to base himself. Another, very different, example is a diplomat who rises to personal power within an empire who brokers deals that regularly include tips or perks on the side. The diplomat can be bought, and is regularly influenced by personal gain, but follows the rules of his office to the letter to avoid falling from power.

Chaotic Evil: Defies order, acts without empathy toward other characters. This is where the random killings come into play. To be clear, killing only those from one particular political entity is not purely chaotic, as there is a guideline for who to kill and even a purpose for the killings. A chaotic evil killer might be someone who randomly wanders around the entire map, killing those he comes across if he feels like it at the time. Perhaps he lets one traveler go without harassment because he likes the color of their hat, and kills the next because he suddenly felt the urge to kill something. A character like this would not limit themselves to killing players, but would attack bandits, ogres, and even Thornguards without any apparent reason other than he wanted to at the time. However, because Pathfinder Online has the hidden Positive vs Negative axis for players rather than characters, while chaotic evil would not have empathy for characters, a positively played chaotic evil would have empathy for players. What I mean by that is that if a player seems to be having a bad day, or is a new player to the game, a positively played chaotic evil would refrain from attacking that player if they knew of the situation beforehand. If they didn't find out until after killing them, they would help that player recover, whether emotionally or mechanically, while teaching them that dying in PFO isn't so bad. A positively played chaotic evil character can be a good thing for the game.

Neutral Evil: Keeps order in mind, but doesn't necessarily always follow it to the letter, and acts without empathy toward other characters. This is where the standard bandit or political killer usually finds themselves. Bandits will typically follow a loose code, where they fight alongside others and generally follow the rules of the group, but sometimes bend them or ignore them occasionally. They are somewhat organized most of the time, and will pick and choose targets based on risk vs reward. Political killers, while more often acting alone or in a group of two or three at the most, may seem to kill randomly but they do typically follow the rules of the organization they belong to. They might only target gatherers because that's what they've been ordered to do, but they will sometimes deviate and attack others, and they will typically have quite a bit of autonomy beyond the general orders. Just like with Chaotic Evil, a Neutral Evil character played by a Positive player will have empathy for the player behind their target, but not the character. As outlined above, they will specifically not attack those that they think might leave the game as a result, and if they find out that their actions might lead to that, they will do what they can to keep that from happening.

In conclusion, the alignment system in Pathfinder tabletop is slightly different than the alignment system in Pathfinder Online, because in the tabletop there are only a handful of people sitting around the table that you have to worry about, and you can do whatever you want to NPCs. With the transition to an MMO, where most of those you interact with are akin to those sitting around the table in a tabletop game, the separation of empathy for the player and empathy for the character comes into play. I've referred to empathy for the player behind the character as Positive vs Negative Gameplay, and described each of the Evil alignments with this separate axis in mind.
[Sylva] is the premier Nature based settlement in Pathfinder Online. We're a family that has come together through the game, and we're one of the most active settlements currently. We have a solid roleplaying foundation and are a home to those who both love and hate PvP.

[The Seventh Veil] is a meta-game group with members in several different settlements. We've created many guides and spreadsheets for the game that are referenced by hundreds of players on a daily basis and we maintain multiple websites like [Goblinary.com], [The Storehouse], and [The Unofficial PFO Atlas] to make information more readily available. The Seventh Veil promotes positive game play at all times.
Kitsune
Banesama
I rarely play evil but when I do I either go LE or NE, I never choose CE. I just can't roleplay Chaotic very well. But for me, the character's action is only a part of the equation, sometimes the lesser part. What really determines evil is the motivation behind the action. I've often played evil character that have done things that seem for the cause of 'good' but the personal motivation behind the action was purely selfish and often part of a grandeur evil scheme.

Yeah, I have a problem on the other axis. I can roleplay a Chaotic character pretty easily (and it often gets me in trouble with my party…smile, but I often have a hard time roleplaying an Evil character. I mean, I even try to play CN often enough, but I end up doing so much Good that I sometimes can't correctly label my character with the Neutral part. I sometimes end up with something closer to Robin Hood.

I've always felt that if I were to play an truly Evil character, I would eventually end up turning on my party (who are typically Good or sometimes Neutral). We have one friend, who (in our early days of playing D&D together) played an Evil character. After he literally tried killing the party, stole some artifact, nearly killed a god, and escaped to some-plane-or-another where he could study wizard spells for like the next 20 years…we can never fully trust him in any campaign anymore.
Nihimon
Kitsune
I can roleplay a Chaotic character pretty easily…

That's not "roleplay" buddy, that's you smile
Nihimon murmurs in sheer ecstasy as the magic courses through his veins
Tuoweit
Kitsune
I've always felt that if I were to play an truly Evil character, I would eventually end up turning on my party (who are typically Good or sometimes Neutral). We have one friend, who (in our early days of playing D&D together) played an Evil character. After he literally tried killing the party, stole some artifact, nearly killed a god, and escaped to some-plane-or-another where he could study wizard spells for like the next 20 years…we can never fully trust him in any campaign anymore.

Well, firstly, an evil character doesn't HAVE to be 100% evil in everything they do - they can still have friends and build trust in relationships, because those things benefit evil characters too. In other words, just because some action would be evil, doesn't mean an evil character MUST take that action. It's a description of broad tendencies and motivations, not a decision flow-chart.

Second - was that story where your friend did all that stuff an awesome story, or was it just an annoyance/disruptive to the other players? Can you trust your friend to continue to contribute to a good story, even if (in the "worst" case) their in-game actions are working against your character's in-game actions? That distinction, I think, is key in successfully role-playing evil with other (non-evil) characters.
Kitsune
Nihimon
Kitsune
I can roleplay a Chaotic character pretty easily…

That's not "roleplay" buddy, that's you smile

Is it not still "roleplaying" even if the role you're playing is not too much unlike your own? Well, shucks… smile
(I DID say that it was pretty easy…smile

Tuoweit
Kitsune
I've always felt that if I were to play an truly Evil character, I would eventually end up turning on my party (who are typically Good or sometimes Neutral). We have one friend, who (in our early days of playing D&D together) played an Evil character. After he literally tried killing the party, stole some artifact, nearly killed a god, and escaped to some-plane-or-another where he could study wizard spells for like the next 20 years…we can never fully trust him in any campaign anymore.

Well, firstly, an evil character doesn't HAVE to be 100% evil in everything they do - they can still have friends and build trust in relationships, because those things benefit evil characters too. In other words, just because some action would be evil, doesn't mean an evil character MUST take that action. It's a description of broad tendencies and motivations, not a decision flow-chart.

Second - was that story where your friend did all that stuff an awesome story, or was it just an annoyance/disruptive to the other players? Can you trust your friend to continue to contribute to a good story, even if (in the "worst" case) their in-game actions are working against your character's in-game actions? That distinction, I think, is key in successfully role-playing evil with other (non-evil) characters.

Agreed! And, in my above example, the rest of the players were clueless about his true alignment. We adventured from lvl 1 through lvl 18 together, if I recall correctly. And he wasn't even plotting this giant maneuver forever, either. In a near-impulse decision (well, I think he had time between sessions to think up the scheme), he went from "playing along" to "holy crap, there's a huge chance here and I can become like a demigod!!" So yeah, it's true that playing "Evil" can be dormant for quite some time, but ultimately if I were playing Evil, I would always be thinking of a way I could d*** my comrades and benefit myself.

As for whether it was annoyance or completely disruptive… It resulted in the campaign completely ending. But, perhaps, maybe in 20 years (… more like 5 years now, holy crap!) we can pick up that campaign and go kick his character's ass.
Nihimon
Kitsune
Is it not still "roleplaying" even if the role you're playing is not too much unlike your own?

Like when I went to those 90's Halloween parties as "a slacker"? Sure…
Nihimon murmurs in sheer ecstasy as the magic courses through his veins
Edam
Roleplay, alignment or otherwise, does not usually happen as readily online.

In a home game the same individual can play a pain in the butt whiny trouble-making self centered git in one campaign and a concerned caring helpful good natured individual in another and people have no trouble separating the real person from the persona. People will even say stuff like "I really like playing with your Cleric but there is no way I will be in a party with your Barbarian ever again he is far to annoying and cannot be trusted".

In a MMO people invariable try and relate to the real person behind the character and get angry or take things personally. This even comes out in the term PvP. It is called Plaver versus Player not Character versus Character for good reason.
Midnight
For Evil I go for selfish at the expense of others.

For Good I go to altruism and sharing.

For Lawful I go for valuing social order and/or reveling in bureaucracy.

For Chaotic I go for rugged individualism and/or for rebellion against the status quo.

I don't even try to play neutral. It's such a weird nowhere zone for me. Yes, filled with flexibility and possibilities, but I'm just never convinced I'm doing it well, or even that I can recognize it being done well.

If I really had to take a stab at what neutral is I'd point to the majority of Americans who sit on their couch doing little for anyone else, nor *to* anyone else, while just hoping the government and the discontented will overlook them. I don't see the fun in roleplaying a frightened rat who lacks conviction.
He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
-Edmund Burke
 
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