This is a site for discussing roleplaying games. Have fun doing so, but there is one major rule: do not discuss political issues that aren't directly and uniquely related to the subject of the thread and about gaming. While this site is dedicated to free speech, the following will not be tolerated: devolving a thread into unrelated political discussion, sockpuppeting (using multiple and/or bogus accounts), disrupting topics without contributing to them, and posting images that could get someone fired in the workplace (an external link is OK, but clearly mark it as Not Safe For Work, or NSFW). If you receive a warning, please take it seriously and either move on to another topic or steer the discussion back to its original RPG-related theme.
The message boards have been upgraded. Please log in to your existing account by clicking here. It will ask twice, so that it can properly update your password and login information. If it has trouble recognizing your password, click the 'Forgot your password?' link to reset it with a new password sent to your email address on file.

Author Topic: Detect Evil  (Read 849 times)

Pat

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • P
  • Posts: 2543
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2021, 10:30:17 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.

HappyDaze

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • H
  • Posts: 3175
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2021, 06:06:38 AM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.

Pat

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • P
  • Posts: 2543
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #17 on: April 08, 2021, 09:49:01 AM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.

estar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9642
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #18 on: April 08, 2021, 11:58:16 AM »
How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
It is pretty clear in OD&D.

Quote
Detect Evil: A spell to detect evil thought or intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Note that poison, for example, is neither good nor evil. Duration: 2 turns. Range: 6”.
Basically for 20 minutes you get a "spidey sense" 60 feet in radius to alert you do any creature that might be dangerous to you or a dangerous magic item.

In my Majestic Fantasy RPG Rules I make this clearer.

Detect Evil
(Divine, 1st Level) Range: 120 feet; Duration: 1 hour
(Arcane, 2nd Level) Range: 60 feet; Duration: 20 minutes
The caster detects the following dangers for the duration of the spell: hostile sentient beings, hostile monsters, and enchantments/auras that cause damage or some type of harm. It does not detect traps, poisons, or other mundane dangers.

In later editions it gets cluttered up with alignment system stuff and authors taking the title of the spell too literally.


« Last Edit: April 08, 2021, 12:00:15 PM by estar »

Opaopajr

  • Señor Wences
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7416
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2021, 12:04:25 PM »
I run it as written in AD&D 2e. It is quite strict there. It can only detect innate evil such as demons and undead necromantic magic tapping into the Negative Material Plane. But it cannot detect it in human/oids unless they are a) evil priests, b) of high level, c) in good standing, and d) in the middle of an evil act. So 9th lvl Snake Cult Gnoll Priestess in full ceremonial regalia having a beer in a bar (or giving candy to street urchins) will not likely work, though you can presume all you like.

I readjust the spell in 5e accordingly because I prefer the mystery. I actually adjust quite a few 5e spells because I don't like their lenient (or sometimes stringent) WotC wording. In other games where players play strong powers, like In Nomine, I am OK with such conceits and willingly prepare around them. But for D&D I don't need the overhead.

I also retain in-setting hostility at having unknown and undeclared magic casted at oneself. It along with other conceits (like no one is Zero lvl, assault NPCs at your peril) helps tone down the "Pew pew! Imma wizard, you peons!" at my table.
Just make your fuckin' guy and roll the dice, you pricks. Focus on what's interesting, not what gives you the biggest randomly generated virtual penis.  -- J Arcane
 
You know, people keep comparing non-TSR D&D to deck-building in Magic: the Gathering. But maybe it's more like Katamari Damacy. You keep sticking shit on your characters until they are big enough to be a star.
-- talysman

estar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9642
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2021, 12:44:58 PM »
The thing to keep in mind about the OD&D version is that unlike later editions utility spells have long durations making them much more useful especially with limited spell slots to memorize with.

Later editions and authors failed to get this aspect of the original editions.

Compared to other choices there is little to no reasons to memorize AD&D 2e version of Detect Evil. It so situational it would come up once in a blue moon.

Omega

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • O
  • Posts: 14806
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #21 on: April 08, 2021, 01:02:37 PM »
By AD&D detect evil could be baffled by various means. Same I believe in BX. It was certainly concealable by 2e.
Some things that could counter this were psionics. Certain spells. And in particular some magic items.

In BX Detect evil detected evil intentions and evil objects. But did not reveal anything else. And nots that "Chaotic is not always evil" and that the DM should discuss the spell with the players so everyone is on the same page. By that reading then the spell could say detect someone really mad about something that is not normally so dark in thought. And totally miss someone evil who just happened to not at the time have any evil intentions. A lawful Evil person happy with the current state of things might get a pass.
Similarly Protection from Evil protected the caster from anyone of an alignment other than their own. Pretty sure one of the NPCs in Keep on the Borderlands had an amulet of protection from alignment detection. But do not have it handy to check so could be wrong.

AD&D Detect Evil on the other hand detected evil alignment. It though worked within a certain field of view so someone standing outside the cone would not be detected. But the DM section says slightly otherwise.
Protection from Evil was weird again as it protected from non-evil summoned animals, elementals, and golems. But also put a penalty on evil aligned creatures attacks on them.

On the flip side the 2nd level spell Know Alignment could be reversed to prevent any alignment detection. There are supposed to be items that protect but a glance through did not spot any right off.

The psionics section has a power that allows the user to give off a false alignment I believe.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2021, 01:05:08 PM by Omega »

HappyDaze

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • H
  • Posts: 3175
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2021, 05:14:06 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.
Not to someone within that world. To do so would be to apply real world workings to a fantasy world. That's why I said it would be a world radically different from ours more than one in which people shit out fireballs.

Pat

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • P
  • Posts: 2543
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2021, 06:47:06 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.
Not to someone within that world. To do so would be to apply real world workings to a fantasy world. That's why I said it would be a world radically different from ours more than one in which people shit out fireballs.
Completely disagree. You'd still have iconoclasts and heretics who disagree with the justice and correctness of the metaphysical laws. The existence of a natural law of morality doesn't magically mean everyone is going to agree with it.

Though the degree to which there would be disagreement would be heavily based on culture. If the culture was stifling and uniform, which seems fairly likely given how often that's cropped up in human history based on purely subjective assessments, the amount and degree of dissent would probably be fairly minor. If they somehow passed through their own Enlightenment, it would be far more significant. Though it's a lot more likely the world would be hidebound and intolerant to a degree that makes the medieval Catholic church seem like libertines.

HappyDaze

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • H
  • Posts: 3175
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2021, 07:09:21 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.
Not to someone within that world. To do so would be to apply real world workings to a fantasy world. That's why I said it would be a world radically different from ours more than one in which people shit out fireballs.
Completely disagree. You'd still have iconoclasts and heretics who disagree with the justice and correctness of the metaphysical laws. The existence of a natural law of morality doesn't magically mean everyone is going to agree with it.

Though the degree to which there would be disagreement would be heavily based on culture. If the culture was stifling and uniform, which seems fairly likely given how often that's cropped up in human history based on purely subjective assessments, the amount and degree of dissent would probably be fairly minor. If they somehow passed through their own Enlightenment, it would be far more significant. Though it's a lot more likely the world would be hidebound and intolerant to a degree that makes the medieval Catholic church seem like libertines.
If you're familiar with Torg, then the idea here is akin to the "world laws" each cosm (alt reality) has that dictate how various things simply do not work the same way that they do in Core Earth (the not-quite-the-real-world-but close-enough base setting).

And you're right that having a natural law of morality doesn't mean that everyone will agree with it...but it does mean that those that oppose it are objectively evil within the world laws of that world.

Pat

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • P
  • Posts: 2543
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2021, 07:11:50 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.
Not to someone within that world. To do so would be to apply real world workings to a fantasy world. That's why I said it would be a world radically different from ours more than one in which people shit out fireballs.
Completely disagree. You'd still have iconoclasts and heretics who disagree with the justice and correctness of the metaphysical laws. The existence of a natural law of morality doesn't magically mean everyone is going to agree with it.

Though the degree to which there would be disagreement would be heavily based on culture. If the culture was stifling and uniform, which seems fairly likely given how often that's cropped up in human history based on purely subjective assessments, the amount and degree of dissent would probably be fairly minor. If they somehow passed through their own Enlightenment, it would be far more significant. Though it's a lot more likely the world would be hidebound and intolerant to a degree that makes the medieval Catholic church seem like libertines.
If you're familiar with Torg, then the idea here is akin to the "world laws" each cosm (alt reality) has that dictate how various things simply do not work the same way that they do in Core Earth (the not-quite-the-real-world-but close-enough base setting).
And you can disagree with the morality of world laws. Gravity's the classic world law, but it's a little too abstract for this purpose. But all kinds of people think aging is terribly unfair and unjust, while others try to rationalize it, and others just try to deal with it. Same would be true if certain things pinged evil and others pinged good.

HappyDaze

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • H
  • Posts: 3175
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #26 on: April 08, 2021, 07:17:40 PM »
Let us rehash this old chestnut.

How do you run Detect Evil in your campaign? Does it only detect innate evil? Can it ever be mistaken? Is it used as a justification for slapping some sod in the head?
Are people on the ball about having a spell cast on them, and consider it an invasion of privacy?

I never liked the idea that a pretty low level spell could divine someone's nature, and potentially short circuit a mystery. The Ravenloft setting just threw up their hands and said 'It don't work! Stop that!" Even so, if it does work, is someone justified in killing someone because a magic spell caused a red buzzer to sound off over their heads? Or merely imprisoning them because they're generically "evil"? Does any kind of due process enter the picture? What's to stop a cleric from saying that they detected evil in order to get at someone they don't like?

In looking up how 5th edition does it, I note the latest version only detects supernatural evil. That's a bit more my style.
If detect evil works without fail (no false positives) then nobody that wasn't evil would view it as an invasion of privacy.
i would. It's still thoughtcrime, and that's even without considering there's no universal definition of good and evil, so even if good and evil are objectively detectable, you can still challenge the definition being used.

Agree about the degree of social impact.
If detect evil works without fail, it creates the universal definition.
Only in the most trite and literal sense. The morality of that definition will always remain up for debate.
Not to someone within that world. To do so would be to apply real world workings to a fantasy world. That's why I said it would be a world radically different from ours more than one in which people shit out fireballs.
Completely disagree. You'd still have iconoclasts and heretics who disagree with the justice and correctness of the metaphysical laws. The existence of a natural law of morality doesn't magically mean everyone is going to agree with it.

Though the degree to which there would be disagreement would be heavily based on culture. If the culture was stifling and uniform, which seems fairly likely given how often that's cropped up in human history based on purely subjective assessments, the amount and degree of dissent would probably be fairly minor. If they somehow passed through their own Enlightenment, it would be far more significant. Though it's a lot more likely the world would be hidebound and intolerant to a degree that makes the medieval Catholic church seem like libertines.
If you're familiar with Torg, then the idea here is akin to the "world laws" each cosm (alt reality) has that dictate how various things simply do not work the same way that they do in Core Earth (the not-quite-the-real-world-but close-enough base setting).
And you can disagree with the morality of world laws. Gravity's the classic world law, but it's a little too abstract for this purpose. But all kinds of people think aging is terribly unfair and unjust, while others try to rationalize it, and others just try to deal with it. Same would be true if certain things pinged evil and others pinged good.
There's a pretty big difference in disagreeing with the morality of a world law that defines morality. One that disagrees with the morality of aging still ages and one that disagrees with the morality of gravity is still at risk of falling. Is one that disagrees with the morality of a world law of absolute good/evil still bound by it? In the fantasy world of absolute good/evil, I say they are. The Sith is still evil even if he claims the Jedi are the bad guys because that's the world law of the setting.

robertliguori

  • Newbie
  • *
  • r
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #27 on: April 08, 2021, 07:43:30 PM »
There's a pretty big difference in disagreeing with the morality of a world law that defines morality. One that disagrees with the morality of aging still ages and one that disagrees with the morality of gravity is still at risk of falling. Is one that disagrees with the morality of a world law of absolute good/evil still bound by it? In the fantasy world of absolute good/evil, I say they are. The Sith is still evil even if he claims the Jedi are the bad guys because that's the world law of the setting.

The point is that excepting the actual effects (vulnerability to Smite, various other magics, etc.), most people don't care.  Alignment is not visible, and if Grigor the wizard does suspicious and eldritch things in in his tower, but comes down to share his magic and participate in all the local village festivals, then most villagers will neither know nor care whether he's staining his soul with Evil magic, polishing it up with Good magic, or that he's actually an alchemist LARPing as a wizard and has no magic whatsoever.

And there are a lot of fantasy worlds where the world law is explicitly skewed off of what we'd think of traditional morality, like the 2E Forgotten Realms setting and its Wall of the Faithless.  That can make morality a matter of pressing interest, but it cannot convert the will of Ao, powerful as he might be, into actual virtue.

jhkim

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8787
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #28 on: April 08, 2021, 07:46:02 PM »
On what HappyDaze and Pat are discussing, I could divide this into three basic cases:

(1) There is absolute good and evil, and everyone believes in it. The evil creatures are like "I'm evil and I know it" while the good creatures know they are good. It's simplistic, and that's the point. The world law is that evil beings know they are evil.

(2) There are differing cultural attitudes about good and evil, with various shades of grey, and no alignment system.

(3) There is absolute good and evil, but there is cultural complexity and some cultures are verifiably evil by the alignment system but still think of themselves as good.

I'm not sure I see the point of #3. If there is moral complexity to the world and its cultures, then why have a simplistic absolute alignment system?


(As an aside, less quoting would make things more readable, I think. More than two nested quotes is getting excessive, in my opinion.)

Pat

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • P
  • Posts: 2543
    • View Profile
Re: Detect Evil
« Reply #29 on: April 08, 2021, 07:47:37 PM »
There's a pretty big difference in disagreeing with the morality of a world law that defines morality. One that disagrees with the morality of aging still ages and one that disagrees with the morality of gravity is still at risk of falling. Is one that disagrees with the morality of a world law of absolute good/evil still bound by it? In the fantasy world of absolute good/evil, I say they are. The Sith is still evil even if he claims the Jedi are the bad guys because that's the world law of the setting.
That's what you seem to be missing -- yes, if good and evil are objectively defined in a world, you're bound by it. If you ping as evil, then smite evil will burn. You'll show up on thoughtcrimeI mean detect evil maps. You might be ignored by certain creatures, subject to certain afflictions, and so on.

That doesn't mean people have to agree that the classification is just. That it exists doesn't mean it's right.