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submitted 7 months ago by [email protected] to c/[email protected]
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[-] [email protected] 168 points 7 months ago

Back in 3rd Edition D&D there was a spell called "Holy Word" that could kill non-good creatures within a 40 foot radius of the caster, if the caster was sufficiently high level relative to the creatures. Good creatures were completely unaffected.

When tightly packed you can fit about 2000 people into a 40-foot-radius circle (total area is 5000 square feet). So one casting can deal with the population of a good-sized town. My gaming group speculated for a while about a society where it was a routine ritual to round up all the peasantry and nuke them with Holy Word to keep the population clear of evil. Never incorporated it into any campaigns, though. It's a bit of a sticky philosophical puzzler.

[-] [email protected] 64 points 7 months ago

This is a weird one because despite being a "good" spell, it entails the mass murder of innocent neutrals. It really doesn't seem like a good action to me.

It seems like anyone who was okay with this would fall to neutral or evil simply by virtue of being okay with mass murder, and in turn fall victim to the Great Neutral Purge.

[-] [email protected] 25 points 7 months ago

Indeed, hence the sticky philosophical puzzler. I would think that the clerics themselves would start getting affected by the spell. Fortunately (for them), the effect of the spell when cast on someone of the same level as yourself is only deafness for 1d4 rounds. The Church could probably cover that up.

There was another interesting related situation that came up in an actual campaign I was in, involving the Blasphemy spell (a variant that only kills non-evil targets). My party and I were in our "home base", a mansion belonging to an allied NPC noblewoman, planning out our next excursion. A powerful demon we'd been tangling with attempted to scry-and-fry us, teleporting in and nuking us with Blasphemy. Unfortunately there were a lot of low-level NPC staff working in the noblewoman's household and the spell wiped them out instantly... except for one guy, who happened to be of evil alignment. He survived the encounter because of that.

Even though his alignment was evil, though, he'd never done anything wrong and didn't seem like he had any reason to do anything wrong in the future. So we weren't sure if we should fire him or what. It wasn't illegal to simply be evil, you had to actually do something evil before you could be punished. We just warned him we'd be keeping an eye on him, in the end, and kept him on staff.

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[-] Jerkface 13 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

I feel like there might be interesting ways to deal with it. Perhaps the mass killing of neutrals only ever happened the first time, which could have been many generations ago and under singular circumstances. Since then, only the odd one here or there ever dies during the purge. Perhaps it's been decades or centuries since anyone died to the purge, reinforcing belief in it's effectiveness as a basis for a pure society. It may have been so long that people wonder whether the purge is even real, or just a traditional ceremony carried out annually based on old myths. Then one year, it wipes out half the city. The party investigates?

[-] Godnroc 16 points 7 months ago

The ritual could have been real, but was quietly faked so that a corrupt leader could avoid facing their fate.

Or, the ritual was always fake but used as a cover to assassinate specific targets without consequences.

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[-] [email protected] 8 points 7 months ago

whoever is casting that spell into a crowd of peasants will definitely turn evil

[-] [email protected] 7 points 7 months ago

Followed by 3 quarters of the party dying to the ritual, most likely.

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[-] [email protected] 8 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

What is being good except having self-imposed restrictions to avoid doing something evil? This spell seems perfect. There will rarely be a time where a good aligned character could justify using it in an overpowered way. If it were inverted then you would see evil characters using it all the time. It's a self-imposed balance. You have a very powerful tool, but you must avoid using unless absolutely necessary.

[-] [email protected] 9 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

Ah, but there is an evil equivalent, Blasphemy. It affects non-evil creatures instead of non-good creatures, and as such has no self-balancing properties. There are even equivalents for Law and Chaos, which are... worryingly abstract.

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[-] [email protected] 30 points 7 months ago

Only good? What about neutral alignment? (if that was a thing)

[-] [email protected] 80 points 7 months ago

I hate these filthy Neutrals, Kif. With enemies you know where they stand but with Neutrals, who knows? It sickens me.

Here's the SRD entry for the spell. It definitely nukes the neutrals.

The evil equivalent is Blasphemy, which nukes all non-evil creatures. Yes, the neutrals get it from both sides.

Then there's Word of Chaos and Dictum, the Law and Chaos equivalents of those Good/Evil spells. Neutrals, believe it or not, death!

Pick a side, you neutral scum!

[-] [email protected] 37 points 7 months ago

Good.

What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?

[-] [email protected] 23 points 7 months ago
[-] [email protected] 10 points 7 months ago

I have a sunny disposition that’s balanced out with depression. True neutral.

[-] [email protected] 9 points 7 months ago

All I know, my gut says maybe.

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[-] VindictiveJudge 15 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

Here’s the SRD entry for the spell. It definitely nukes the neutrals.

Which is kind of horrifying because most of the population of any given setting is supposed to be neutral. The average commoner isn't so greatly committed to following airtight moral codes that they'll ping on a detect whatever spell, whether that's good, evil, law, or chaos. Cast that on a crowd of randoms and you've probably wiped out three quarters of them.

[-] [email protected] 10 points 7 months ago

It was a bit different back in the 3rd edition days, "good" and "evil" were slung around a bit more liberally. I believe it wasn't until the 5th edition when they introduced the "unaligned" state, which is sort of "neutral but without the commitment", and assumed most average folk were unaligned.

Presumably before the high cleric casts Holy Word there'd be a festival ahead of time in which people are given plenty of opportunity to donate to good causes (ie, the Church) to crank up their good meters before being "tested."

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[-] [email protected] 12 points 7 months ago

Tell my wife I said... hello

[-] PunnyName 8 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

Upvoted purely for the Futurama reference.

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[-] [email protected] 17 points 7 months ago

Another aspect of the puzzle is that not every evil deserves death. A bum who does minor theft almost as a habit, a hateful bitter man who antagonizes everyone but obeys the law, a teenager, a greedy business person who employs half the town but makes everyone's life a bit worse, and so on.

Good should have the self restraint to not go straight to murder.

[-] [email protected] 8 points 7 months ago

The system in question relied on a hard Alignment metric. So addressing each of your examples:

  • A bum who does minor theft almost as a habit: Theft would qualify as a Chaotic act and would have no bearing on the Good/Evil axis
  • A hateful bitter man who antagonizes everyone but obeys the law: This is a Lawful act and may or may not have an effect on the man's Good/Evil axis.
  • Teenager: there is no alignment associated with angst
  • A greedy business person who employs half the town but makes everyone’s life a bit worse: How he makes their life worse would matter in this instance, but he may be committing acts that affect his soul's alignment.

One of the things that everyone everyone forgets about this system is that Alignment has nothing to do with morality, but rather which prime plane the individuals soul was aligned with. Good is aligned with the Positive Energy plane, Evil with the Negative Energy plane, Lawful with Mechanus, and Chaos with Limbo. Each alignment also had a Power Word spell.

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[-] [email protected] 9 points 7 months ago

One problem with the strategy is that Blasphemy, Dictum, and Word of Chaos all exist as well. If the Cleric's Alignment/Faith changed they could sacrifice the town with a single cast.

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[-] [email protected] 8 points 7 months ago

I'd say "kill 'big' evil, stun 'normal' evil" would be a better spell.

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[-] [email protected] 115 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

The sword's power changes with time, and as it racks up more kills. Soon, it gains a +1 to attack and damage. Then, it can become wreathed in flame as a bonus action. Then, it grants advantage to checks made to locate creatures. Then, its base power inverts and it can only kill non-evil creatures.

Do not tell the player about that last one. Insist to the player that it works exactly as you first described. The Paladin can kill innocent shopkeepers and little old ladies, but cannot kill this assassin working for the BBEG.

Will he question his own stab-first ask-later methods? Or will he turn evil without even noticing?

[-] [email protected] 82 points 7 months ago

I personally hate this kind of twist. If you need to actively lie to your player, not just mislead with some clever wordplay, it always feels like you’re breaking trust.

[-] [email protected] 18 points 7 months ago

Why explain it in meta, instead of the old trustworthy totally-not-a-witch saying it only affects evil?

[-] Madison420 7 points 7 months ago

No need to lie, have it start to say stuff after awhile and if the other doesn't jump to demon sword that's on them.

[-] Tenchi 32 points 7 months ago

I also hate this kind of twist. There better be a great lore reason for this because it's a huge fuck your playstyle meta reason to do this.

[-] [email protected] 21 points 7 months ago

The playstyle is stabbing random townsfolk on the off chance you kill a bad guy. Fuck that playstyle.

And for a lore reason, just have the sword be influenced by the morality of the wielder's actions. Stabbing random townsfolk is evil. The sword turns evil.

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[-] [email protected] 19 points 7 months ago

If I were doing this, I wouldn't describe the effects exactly (except the +1). I would just tell them it misses every time they attack a non-evil character first, and describe it being wreathed in flames. Then for the swap just tell them who it misses or hits still, but they have to figure out both times what the effect is (or that it changed).

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[-] [email protected] 62 points 7 months ago

It makes perfect sense. The paladin found the exploit.

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[-] [email protected] 36 points 7 months ago

Without lawyers, the kingdom was unable to resolve disputes and fell into chaos.

[-] [email protected] 11 points 7 months ago

Although the number of disputes did fall pretty dramatically too

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[-] SkybreakerEngineer 34 points 7 months ago

To be fair, the sword kept nagging him.

"You should draw me, i bet that guy's really evil" OKAY FINE SWORD-NIMI YOU CAN EAT THAT OLD MAN

[-] [email protected] 13 points 7 months ago

Oh hi Nightblood. Where did Vasher go now?

[-] [email protected] 25 points 7 months ago

Now throw him a good character with some magic immunity that negates the effect of the weapon.

[-] [email protected] 22 points 7 months ago

I mean, that sounds very much like a paladin in unapologetic violation of one or more of their oaths.

[-] xkforce 22 points 7 months ago

I mean... theyre not harming anything good so not really?

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[-] ajmaxwell 17 points 7 months ago

I could see a Vengeance Paladin justifying through divine will or whatever

[-] Omnificer 10 points 7 months ago

Yea, blatant murder and assault isn't justifiable to most good deities or codes of ethics, even if the target pings as evil. "Oh this shopkeeper is evil? Guess he dies."

At the least, it's highly illegal most places, so even if there aren't divine consequences there'd certainly be social ones.

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[-] [email protected] 14 points 7 months ago* (last edited 7 months ago)

Have him stab the mayor who's evil because he's greedy and selfish and borderline abusive in trade-deals with neighboring regions but is otherwise beloved (and has rewards heaped on him) because he's so good at actually keeping order in the town and keeping their goodwill (although probably at least a little bit through some passive-aggressive blackmail). That's always fun.

[-] [email protected] 14 points 7 months ago
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[-] [email protected] 12 points 7 months ago

Make an evil dude who's just immune to stab wounds. Problem solved.

[-] [email protected] 12 points 7 months ago

If one were to base their diet around moral responsibility, would eating only what the blade can cut be reasonable? Can it cut vegetables? Can animals be evil? Would training a cow to be evil in order to avoid starvation be morally justifiable?

[-] [email protected] 16 points 7 months ago

Training a creature to be evil so you can kill it is definitely evil.

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[-] [email protected] 10 points 7 months ago

A paladin whose diet consists of roast demonflesh. Hm.

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[-] GrammatonCleric 9 points 7 months ago

Can't find out without fucking around 😉

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this post was submitted on 16 Oct 2023
872 points (98.7% liked)

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