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Author Topic: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]  (Read 2140 times)

FingerRod

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2021, 05:45:31 PM »
I recently started work on shaping magic for a future campaign and came up with six categories of magic that would be black, evil, etc.

Paralyze
Animate Dead
Speak with Dead
Curse
Life Transfer
Decay

Some of these do not fit classic tropes, which was okay by me. These are categories of spells, so you could have multiple types of spells fitting inside each grouping.

Super interested in where this conversation goes because I am still in the early stages and collecting ideas.

I agree with all but one, why paralyze?

That is one I am on the fence with as well. It is a bit of a stretch, but life is about growth and vitality. It moves forward. Taking away that freedom, or the natural law of growth and movement is what is in violation. It is certainly thin.

Types of spells to fit in the category are similar to your hold spells, suffocation, etc.


Mishihari

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2021, 05:45:59 PM »
Hmmm ...  It might be useful to have black=harmful, white = non-harmful with altruistic intent, and grey be non-harmful with harmful intent.  Frex, an orc is attacking you.  Roasting him with fireball is black magic.  Paralyzing him temporarily to protect yourself is white magic.  Paralyzing him and then killing him makes it grey magic.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2021, 06:23:48 PM »
Hmmm ...  It might be useful to have black=harmful, white = non-harmful with altruistic intent, and grey be non-harmful with harmful intent.  Frex, an orc is attacking you.  Roasting him with fireball is black magic.  Paralyzing him temporarily to protect yourself is white magic.  Paralyzing him and then killing him makes it grey magic.

So Frex the Orc is about to kill a child, your only chance to stop him is magic missile, so it is still black magic?

I err on the side of why are you harming : Should you kill the children eating monster? Can you kill in self-defense?

This is why I started thinking of means and intent as having way more weight than most spells. And why I'm asking what spells should be considered black magic always.

You're going to cast a healing spell, but you use human sacrifice to power your magic... Is it white magic? It's altruisticand doesn't inflict harm (the spell doesn't)
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Mishihari

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2021, 06:28:52 PM »
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2021, 06:40:58 PM »
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.

I agree that healing the murderer is white magic, I disagree that doing so by powering your spell with human sacrife is still white magic.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

Ghostmaker

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2021, 06:48:48 PM »
I would recommend balancing this crunchwise as well. You don't want to cripple spellcasters who are trying to do the right thing.


GeekyBugle

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #21 on: June 11, 2021, 08:34:03 PM »
I would recommend balancing this crunchwise as well. You don't want to cripple spellcasters who are trying to do the right thing.

Correct, I want to nerf them just a little bit, but since I'm removing the no armor, no weapons restriction too.. And since those weapons can be shotguns, handguns... Even if I constrain them to small/medium weapons I think it balances out.

Plus evil spellcasters might be more powerful, but they will also be more rare, you see they hunt other spellcasters to feed from their power...
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

robertliguori

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #22 on: June 11, 2021, 08:51:09 PM »
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality.  Physics can be gamed and forced into extremely intuitive scenarios, as when we see a metal boat the size of a city block floating along merrily, or see planes flying through the air.

It's considerable less whimsical and inspiring when "Ta-dah! Technically not murder!" is performed.

My own intuition is to lean heavily into purely magic-as-physics, then see what falls out of that.  Any kind of corruptive magic system means that people, regardless of actual intention, can fall into a circumstance where their ethics disagree with the nature of the world, and unless they are being rigorously monitored, Mr. "No, it's a sacred rite of our people that when you get too old to fend for yourself or recognize your family, you get sacrificed to cure a permanent disability among one of your descendants." will end up with all the corruption points and have whatever happens there happen.

And, conversely, the utter asshole who cultures a line of cancer cells, spreads them around, and uses magic to magically heal and reinforce the cells inside his political enemies, killing them with the horrible plague that strikes the city he's in, is just using mundane healing magic, and is a horrifying murderer, but not corrupt, any more than someone who heals someone else who goes on to murder a third party would be.

And, while we're on the subject, let me tell you about my quote-vegan-unquote necromancer from 3.5 D&D, who started his career by solely using the corpses of animals (since they definitely didn't have souls and didn't get proper burials, he clearly wasn't violating any ritual taboos, and it was really hard to claim that he was harming the animals when he'd picked up the bones from a knackery and the one doing the complaining was literally wearing that animal's skin).  However, when druids complained several levels later into his necromancer career, he instead moved to the ultimate in green necromancy; he'd commission statues, cast Stone to Flesh on the statues, which turned into corpses, then animated the corpses, creating undeath ex nihilo, without death actually ever being involved in the process, and very definitely with no harm done to anyone.

He was, of course, thoroughly Evil in alignment; casting Animate Dead is an Evil act, even if what you do with the undead is purely good.  Likewise, a powerful cleric casting Holy Word in an orphanage as a way of screening out the bad seeds before they're adopted is both channeling the pure force of magical Good, and murdering a bunch of (non-Good-aligned) children.

GeekyBugle

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #23 on: June 11, 2021, 09:00:41 PM »
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality.  Physics can be gamed and forced into extremely intuitive scenarios, as when we see a metal boat the size of a city block floating along merrily, or see planes flying through the air.

It's considerable less whimsical and inspiring when "Ta-dah! Technically not murder!" is performed.

My own intuition is to lean heavily into purely magic-as-physics, then see what falls out of that.  Any kind of corruptive magic system means that people, regardless of actual intention, can fall into a circumstance where their ethics disagree with the nature of the world, and unless they are being rigorously monitored, Mr. "No, it's a sacred rite of our people that when you get too old to fend for yourself or recognize your family, you get sacrificed to cure a permanent disability among one of your descendants." will end up with all the corruption points and have whatever happens there happen.

And, conversely, the utter asshole who cultures a line of cancer cells, spreads them around, and uses magic to magically heal and reinforce the cells inside his political enemies, killing them with the horrible plague that strikes the city he's in, is just using mundane healing magic, and is a horrifying murderer, but not corrupt, any more than someone who heals someone else who goes on to murder a third party would be.

And, while we're on the subject, let me tell you about my quote-vegan-unquote necromancer from 3.5 D&D, who started his career by solely using the corpses of animals (since they definitely didn't have souls and didn't get proper burials, he clearly wasn't violating any ritual taboos, and it was really hard to claim that he was harming the animals when he'd picked up the bones from a knackery and the one doing the complaining was literally wearing that animal's skin).  However, when druids complained several levels later into his necromancer career, he instead moved to the ultimate in green necromancy; he'd commission statues, cast Stone to Flesh on the statues, which turned into corpses, then animated the corpses, creating undeath ex nihilo, without death actually ever being involved in the process, and very definitely with no harm done to anyone.

He was, of course, thoroughly Evil in alignment; casting Animate Dead is an Evil act, even if what you do with the undead is purely good.  Likewise, a powerful cleric casting Holy Word in an orphanage as a way of screening out the bad seeds before they're adopted is both channeling the pure force of magical Good, and murdering a bunch of (non-Good-aligned) children.

How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

robertliguori

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2021, 09:11:39 PM »
How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).

Yup, children under 7 in human years and equivalents in for the various nonhuman races are under the age of accountability in my campaign, which means that they are neither good nor evil, which means that Holy Word and Holy Smite and similar spells will kill them dead.  The real point I was getting after was that I don't think there are defined always-good or always-evil spells, and I do think that magic is a tool.  It's just that, when the only spell you know is Summon Thumbscrews, then the actual times that you will be able to use your magic for ethical reasons will be very, very rare.  (Unless you're a smart-ass who spams the spell and uses the torture implements to crack walnuts, say.)

But, since I bring it up, is your position on intent symmetrical? Is raising the dead to defending the living and flinging horrible torturous death-curses at Evil doing Good with Evil means, just like blowing up orphanages with holy magic is doing Evil with Good means, and thus makes you Good by default?

GeekyBugle

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2021, 09:34:37 PM »
How can there be non-good aligned children? Children are innocent, lack the knowledge of good or evil. Unless you're speaking of the spawn of the non-humans?

You see in my gameworld only humans are PCs, type of spell matters, but also does means and intent. You can't be Good if you use evil acts to do your Good deeds, those are called psychos (or was it sociopaths?).

Yup, children under 7 in human years and equivalents in for the various nonhuman races are under the age of accountability in my campaign, which means that they are neither good nor evil, which means that Holy Word and Holy Smite and similar spells will kill them dead.  The real point I was getting after was that I don't think there are defined always-good or always-evil spells, and I do think that magic is a tool.  It's just that, when the only spell you know is Summon Thumbscrews, then the actual times that you will be able to use your magic for ethical reasons will be very, very rare.  (Unless you're a smart-ass who spams the spell and uses the torture implements to crack walnuts, say.)

But, since I bring it up, is your position on intent symmetrical? Is raising the dead to defending the living and flinging horrible torturous death-curses at Evil doing Good with Evil means, just like blowing up orphanages with holy magic is doing Evil with Good means, and thus makes you Good by default?

In my game non-humans aren't ppl, therefore not children but spawn.

No, the end doesn't justify the means, never not IRL nor in my games.

Since an orphanage is full of the innocent blowing it up (by whatever means) would be evil (this extends even to your world where non-humans are ppl.

Let's use a different example, lets say that by exterminating all huwhite ppl the world would trully become paradise and everybody would join hands and sign kumbaya.

Does the end (paradise on earth) justify the means?

Now do it the other way around, do the means justify the end?

Lets say you were capable of harnesing the divine power and were able to eradicate all huwhite ppl by snapping your fingers (so no suffering or fear for them). You did it using God's power, does it make it Good?

IME when the players start doing those things you describe have happened in your game it's the fault of the GM for not making clear the rules of his world and not enforcing the alignment.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

― George Orwell

robertliguori

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2021, 09:57:41 PM »

In my game non-humans aren't ppl, therefore not children but spawn.

No, the end doesn't justify the means, never not IRL nor in my games.

Since an orphanage is full of the innocent blowing it up (by whatever means) would be evil (this extends even to your world where non-humans are ppl.

Let's use a different example, lets say that by exterminating all huwhite ppl the world would trully become paradise and everybody would join hands and sign kumbaya.

Does the end (paradise on earth) justify the means?

Now do it the other way around, do the means justify the end?

Lets say you were capable of harnesing the divine power and were able to eradicate all huwhite ppl by snapping your fingers (so no suffering or fear for them). You did it using God's power, does it make it Good?

IME when the players start doing those things you describe have happened in your game it's the fault of the GM for not making clear the rules of his world and not enforcing the alignment.

I don't think that I'm seeing you flip it the other way around.  If destroying innocent lives is Evil, regardless of the method used, then saving innocent lives is Good, even if you use necromancy and curses.  Just as shiny divine energy cannot redeem senseless slaughter, nor can gothic aesthetics condemn magic used to help and preserve others (with the proviso that the gothic magic can indeed have side effects that need to be considered).

I also think you're getting into some philosophical definitional questions, but I say it depends on your framework.  In the standard of most games, there literally does not exist an authority that can say the future with any accuracy, since the future of game worlds relies on dice and player decisions, so I'd fight the hypothetical about ethnic cleansing being known to cause utopia, even before we look at how often that has historically worked.  But absent the hypothetical-fighting, it comes down to your moral framework, of either doing the most good, or embracing rights absolutely.  If you could preserve the lives of hundreds of trillions by killing billions, then you clearly should, just as we accept that we need to go to war to stop an aggressive enemy and accept that we will be killing a measure of that enemy's civilians, the truly innocent among them, as collateral of the violence we need to stop an aggressive nation from waging war against us.

But plenty of moral systems do not accept the idea of necessary sacrifice or the greater good, and condemn any such calculus.  If you believe that killing the innocent is always wrong, and that, e.g., the bombing of a tank factory in WWII is unjustifiable because the people making the tanks for your enemy are not combatants (and would probably be jailed or shot for not supporting the regime controlling them), then you would condemn the bombing, even knowing that more soldiers (yours and theirs both) would die if the factory stood.

When I use D&D good-as-planar-force, I myself emphasize that Good and Evil are bits of physics.  They're not sentient, they can't plan or look ahead, and it's all about what decision you make in the moment.  In my campaigns, the forces of Good and Evil don't care how many lives you saved by killing an innocent crucial to the evil plans of the Dark Lord; what matters is that you killed an innocent.

But (also IMC), actually using the planar energies utterly swamps the residue left from deeds, unless the deeds are truly epic in scope.  For most of the examples (clerics and aligned outsiders), you either need to keep a code of conduct or lack free will and aren't really capable of attempting to do Good with Evil and vice versa, but in the specific case of wizards who use aligned spells, they can pretty easily disconnect their actual alignment from how those around them tend to perceive them.

Now, D&D is also quite different than most moral settings in that D&D is explicitly mirrored.  Good is the metaphysical opposite but balanced pole of Evil.  What one can do, the other can do in reverse.  In that model, you need to take into account that if bad ends corrupt good means, so therefore should good ends redeem bad means.  In settings and moralities without that cosmic balance, you can say "No, bad ends or bad means make it bad, full-stop."

But when you just call specific magics evil (or, as you point out, good) without looking at what they actually do, and who they actually do it to, you end up disconnecting the actual essence of Good and Evil from what people tend to consider them.

Ghostmaker

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2021, 10:11:59 PM »
A good question on this for Geeky: are there outside elements at play 'judging' magic, like in Ravenloft with the Dark Powers?


Mishihari

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2021, 10:16:42 PM »
Basically, yes.    I should note that I'm using the guidelines from Randall Garret's Lord Darcy books, though he didn't have gray magic.  The rules presented were pretty clear and unequivocal, which is useful for a game, though they were also sometimes unintuitive, as in your case with the magic missile.  A case specifically mentioned was that healing a murderer who would most likely kill again was white magic.

I agree that healing the murderer is white magic, I disagree that doing so by powering your spell with human sacrife is still white magic.


Just to be clear, I wasn't arguing the latter.  That comes under my point that if any part of the magic is evil, then the spell is black.

Mishihari

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Re: Magic is but a tool... And yet... HELP! [No Politics please]
« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2021, 10:19:05 PM »
Your gameworld, your rules, but I strongly advise that you disconnect the magic-as-physics from magic-as-morality. 

Seconded.  You don't want a morality argument every time you cast a spell.  Make some clear rules and stick to them even when the result does not agree with your intuitive sense of morality.