Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On nature of Good and Evil in the Majestic Wilderlands

I haven't used alignment for a long time even back when ADnD 1st edition was still my primary fantasy RPG.

Recently the issue of good and evil came up in the last session, resulting in a major decision for one character.

What is good and evil? That is something each referee has to define. There is no right answer, my only firm recommendation is that there is answer and that it is consistent.

My personal choice is to make the issue a challenge. On one hand I don't use alignment. One consequence is that what is right and just depends on a character's point of view..  On the other absolute good and evil do exist. How can I have both in the Majestic Wilderlands?

The short answer is that when the Wilderlands absolute good was baked into the creation of Elves and Men. That it involves individuals achieving the purpose of their creation. Not in the sense of individual destiny but in achieving the potential that all sentient life have. This includes helping other achieve their potential. Absolute evil is the rejection of the above and the elevation of self above all other considerations or consequences taken to a terrible extreme. While ideal good exists it is rarely encountered due to imperfect choices made by deities and mortals exercising their free will. The difference between a deity and the a mortal is similar to the difference between an experienced parent to a young child. And like parents the various deities of the Majestic Wilderlands have developed different attitudes on how best to teach the mortals to achieve their potential.

The detailed answer is under the fold.

In my cosmology, the Majestic Wilderlands was created by the One who created the two children races of Elves and Men. Two year ago I made a in-game document to test a out some new features of CorelDRAW.

The deities like Mitra, Set, etc were sent by the One as teachers. Despite their extraordinary powers and perception, they are not primal forces of natures. Instead think of the relationship more like an a very experienced parent raising a young child. In addition the One has not opted to manifest personally. And seems to have no problem with the deities fulfilling their mission as teachers using the methods of faith and religion.

Unfortunately for the mortals of the Majestic Wilderlands, some of the deities were drastically effected by the war with the demons in the Dawn Age. Their personalities changed and they developed different ideas on how to achieve their original mission. Some like Set, Kalis, and Hamakhis have rather extreme views. The development of mortal civilization also impacted the Lords particularly the relationship between Set and Mitra.

So how this relate to good and evil? What is absolute good and what is absolute evil? Absolute good in the Majestic Wilderlands is in fulfilling the purpose for which one is born for. Not terms of individual destiny but in terms of the potential inherent in all sentient life. This includes helping others to achieve their potential. The One created Elves, and various races of Man with a ultimate purpose. Even after 30 years I still keep it vague to the specifics, but the few times it has come up my answers  reflects the line from Genesis "So God created mankind in his own image."

What is absolute Evil? It is the rejection of the above. The elevation of self above all other considerations and taken to a terrible extreme. It more than children rebelling against their parents's hidebound attitudes. What the demon brings harm to others and ultimately to themselves. And because the demons achieved great supernatural power, i.e. the fantasy equivalent of nuclear weapons. The deities couldn't let their fates play out like they could for ordinary mortals. So the Abyss was created and the demons imprisoned inside.

Why did the deities opt for faith and religion? Their first attempt at teaching Elves and Men involved them physically present and interacting with Elves and Men. They felt that that to do this would create a second group of demons. So they decided to instead teach through faith and religion. That a focus on faith would better serve the mortals by allowing them to exercise their free will to believe or not. As opposed to the more structured approach of their original attempt.

The deities also realized that they now hold dissimilar or even opposing views of how best teach the mortals. With the war was over and the demons imprisoned, they realized that conflict could occur among them. That divine war would have terrible consequences they opted to strictly limits the methods by which they can interfere. As with the decision about using faith, they kept to the principle that mortals must be allowed to exercise their free will.

From that point on the role of religion developed in ways similar to our own history. Most mortal cultures are only dimly aware of the One, viewing him as a primal force of creation than a deity in his own right. The Elves, given their immortality, still have a living memory of the wars with the demons. Because of this their culture did not develop the diversity found among the races of Man (Humans, Orcs, Dwarves, etc). The Elves and cultures influenced by the Elves tend to view the deities more as revered philosophers then as a focus for veneration.

The mortal cultures that developed independently exhibit the full range of the diversity and attitudes as our own history. Some are very laid back, some fanatical, and some extreme. What is not present in the Majestic Wilderlands is monotheism, as the existence of divine spells, documented interventions, and numerous revelations. As led most cultures to view that there is no one god. In its place henotheism has developed with several cultures believing that they are chosen people of a deity. A few of these henotheistic religions have developed into a universal faith similar to the great religions of our world. Notably the Mitra worshipers of Ghinor achieved universal status by being flexible about who is a Ghinorian.

The result is a melange of pure good (some deities, some paladin, some clerics, etc), pure evil (deities, certain individuals, certain monsters, etc), moral relevance (everything else).

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