If it was a fact that hell existed and it is 100% for sure that evil people go to hell - wouldn't you try to be good?
One thing which really bothers me is that in a lot of fantasy settings the people of those realms *know* for sure that gods and the associated powers exist. Also, it is a fact that there is a hell and heaven (or multiple hells, heavens etc.) as in Forgotten Realms or Planescape settings.
For instance, in Planescape Torment, every person living in Sigil knows there exists multiple planes of hell/heaven, and you end up at hell if you are an evil person. Hell is not a nice place and a sane person would certainly not want to spend an eternity there among demons and such. Therefore, regarding the evil characters in these fantasy settings (apart from the crazy ones), isn't there a very strong motivation for them to actually try to be good?
For example in real life, since it is not 100% for sure after-life exists, the only factors restraining people from committing *evil actions* (yes, very subjective in some cases) are things such as the laws, their conscience and beliefs. I am sure people would think a second time before committing crimes etc. if it was a common fact that after-life existed and you would be punished in hell for sure (even if you were able to get away with it in real life).
I think you get the point. Sorry, if this philosophical aspect had already been covered on the forums, but this has been one of the questions which started bothering me especially while I was playing PS:T. It certainly decreases the realism of any setting IMHO and lawful evil (smart evil) characters don't seem to make much sense in such settings. (Only if they pursue immortality to avoid their fate or try to redeem themselves in order to go to the neutral or good heavens)
Edited by crackwise, 05 September 2014 - 04:17 PM.