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 Killing Orc prisoners

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SteveL
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PostSubject: Killing Orc prisoners   Mon Oct 20, 2008 2:37 pm

What are your thoughts (as a player/DM) on killing Orc prisoners? What if they are noncombatants? Does the question hinge on Gygax's alignment rules?
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PostSubject: Re: Killing Orc prisoners   Thu Oct 23, 2008 5:04 pm

In AD&Dô most races have certain alignments. This was reinforced by the attribution of "Neutral" to the race of Men in the Monster Manual as an average to reflect human variability. (I believe Gygax should have given "any" for Man's alignment.)

On the other hand, even though Elves are described as Chaotic Good in the MM, it was clear that PC elves can be of any alignmnent. Yet, who doubts that orcs, ogres, drow, and red dragons are always evil? (It's possible for a DM to create non-evil individuals belonging to an otherwise evil race, but this is an extremely rare occurance.)

Should orc prisoners be put to the sword by a party of good-aligned characters? After all, orcs are evil. A case can be made that orcish children are innocent and should be spared, but if they are racially evil, they will become malevolent when they mature. And because they are evil (or will become so), they will do evil things in the future.

I think the problem with alignment in AD&D is its prescriptive--rather than descriptive--nature. Though some real-life people may be inclined towards evil and character may be destiny, we lack the foreknowledge of a person's future actions. In real life, "alignment" can really only describe what the person has done; we can't be sure of his actual alignment as a guide to future behaviour. The fact that orcs are evil, and therefore will do evil, gives PCs the knowledge to act pre-emptively.

What about the case of Stalin, though? Would it have been morally correct to assassinate him after it became known that he would continue to do evil? We might say that Stalin was evil in the AD&D sense. (Personally, I wouldn't kill Stalin; in my view, removing him from power and forcing him to at least start making amends would have been sufficient: Without political power he was pretty much harmless.)

Therefore, I think good characters have the right, if not the duty, to slay evil beings--even prisoners. (This brings up the question of an evil being's degree of evil. If an evil person limits his malignance to defacing property, he probably doesn't deserve death. In the game, things are usually more dramatic: evil means murder at the very least.)


Last edited by SteveL on Mon Oct 27, 2008 2:10 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : clarity)
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PostSubject: I resent this discussion   Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:02 pm

I am not evil.

The idea of alignment is simply wrong. While it was keyed to reflect racial difference it should have been reflect cultural differences , which would have given the game a much more complicated shades of grey canvass allowing for more complex politcal stories as opposed to the kill all monster campaigns.

Nurture/ nature

I suspect we could capture orc children, raise them properly and make most of them model citizens. While they may have "natural" agressive tendancies they would still be no worse than many humans.

That said we know very well it's unlikely we could find parents for orphaned orcs or breed oursleves fast enough to keep them from out numbering us in a generation or two. (the assumtion has always been made the orcs breed like flys and only inter tribal conflict keeps them from overwhealming mankind) True/False? how many are born each litter? how fast do they mature?

Of course we could just raise a few in very good conditions instill a fair bit of racial self hating and turn them into spys and agent provocateurs.

As for killing them it's not about evil or good but rather self preservation, we know they will kill or enslave us and as far as I know they don't make prisoner exchanges so what goes around comes around. It is interesting however that we are willinging kill wounded or captured orcs but Ulthor was against enslaving them the one time we brought it up. Is one option more uncivilized than the other?

In our perspective Good or Evil is simply based on supporting the cultural norm. Keeping a slave is evil because our culture does not do it but killing an orc prisoner is not evil because it is the norm. Our attempts are rationalizing another cultures by our own is pointless. As long as game society does not frown on us putting down wounded orcs or civillians , who are we to moralize over it.

Orc children should be treated no differnt than they treated the survivors of fax
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PostSubject: Re: Killing Orc prisoners   Tue Oct 28, 2008 5:33 pm

Some good points. I agree that alignment shouldn't have an objective status; to me it's an interpretation, even if there is no other correct interpretation possible, such as a demon, for instance (it doesn't necessarily follow that just because everyone agrees that a demon is evil that there is objective evil--or does it? Heh heh). But I also understand and admire the official D&D position, which states that good and evil are genuine forces that actually exist; this is high fantasy, and it's appropriate for certain types of worlds (e.g., Middle Earth). So, I think it depends on the nature of the cosmos according to the DM.

I ran into the prescriptive vs. descriptive problem when adapting Pendragon's Personality Trait system (PTs) into Mailed Fist. A character has a number of paired traits that oppose each other, and which add to 10. Thus, a character might be Brave 8 | Cowardly 2. The idea is that a roll determines what the PC does when faced with something that tests his courage. A D&D fear spell works on the same concept (but more clumsily, because it assumes courage is related to class and level rather than to the character's psychology). PTs are both prescriptive and descriptive--though the scores do change during the game. The player is not locked out, and I have made provisions for players who feel that PTs intrude into role-playing territory--I don't believe they do. I think PTs will work magnificently, but it might be best to ignore them until players are comfortable with the more basic rules.

I suppose alignment can be handled similarly: let the player role-play the PC according to the PC's personality and let the DM decide his alignment; in this view, neither the player nor the PC knows the PC's alignment (unless there is access to magic). This requires the DM to track the PC's moral history and to have a clearly defined sense of good vs. evil and law vs. chaos. (See my "Good and Evil, Law and Chaos in Dungeons & Dragons".)

On slavery: What is slavery but captivity, and isn't captivity preferable to death? (This assumes captives were taken in defensive combat.) We could also ransom prisoners in exchange for prisoners, treaty concessions, money, etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Killing Orc prisoners   Mon Apr 12, 2010 5:39 pm

kubera wrote:
[...]

As for killing them it's not about evil or good but rather self preservation, we know they will kill or enslave us [...]
I submit that these concepts (i.e., ethics and self-preservation) are essentially identical where the use of force iis concerned.

SteveL wrote:
[...]

I ran into the prescriptive vs. descriptive problem when adapting Pendragon's Personality Trait system (PTs) into Mailed Fist. [...]
NB: I'll be dropping this aspect of the rules.
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