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Fantasy Settings: Hell and Heaven a fact - Increased motivation to be good

Fantasy worlds hell heaven morality good evil planescape torment

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#21
Suburban-Fox

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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.

 

A lot of people in the real world "know" that their particular god exists...only they can't all be right, because they all claim exclusive rights to monotheism. ;-)

 

Seriously though, I think it's because fantasy tends to be based on ancient Dark Ages superstition, in which they believed that if you're a liar, and you say "if I lie, may the Lord strike me down!", then you would actually be struck down with a lightning bolt. Dragons come from the same source...people declare that a 'monster' was "this big, it were! And it could breathe fire, and rend the ground apart with its claws! I saw it!" (when in actual fact it was just a particularly big wild boar that they saw).

 

Fantasy makes real all of those ancient myths, which includes the gods actually having a semi-physical presence, and their existence being manifest through their powers. That's why gods always actually exist in fantasy settings (although in the Dragon Age setting, the "Maker" is less overt and is more like the Catholic god).

 

As for motivations for being good/evil...I think this is down to one of two things: either the evil characters are convinced that they're actually doing good (just like the Templars believed they were doing God's work by slaughtering those "evil non-Christian heretics!"), or they believe that if they serve an evil deity and make him proud, they will be rewarded, and granted power, and dominion of a plane of Hell, or something. After all, there are still devil worshipping cults in existence today.



#22
teknoman2

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not really. in the real world, you are either a wolf or a sheep. the concept of heaven and hell was invented to give to the sheep something to hope for (the sheep will have to endure a hard life but will be rewarded, the wolves will live a good life but will be punished)... and as a means of mind control to deter them from trying to be wolves (stay in the mud and never try to make your life any better if you want the eternal reward)

now which of the 2 groups invented it (the sheep to justify their plight, or the wolves to make the sheep obedient) does not really matter

in a world where heaven, hell, gods, demons and so on were proven facts, why would anyone bother living at all?

According to your beliefs, sure.

Alternative take: Now, which of the 2 invented that idea that it was invented?  Clever people or convinced they were being clever by Satan?

Not wishing to start a religious debate on the forum but find that atheists speak of their beliefs in the same absolutes as the faithful so need to redress the balance.

 

Back on topic:
If it were known for a fact, many people would change their ways, but as others stated, the worst tend to be convinced they're right.

In D&D land, there are evil gods for the evil people - do well enough for them and you'll do well enough in the afterlife, so there's still room for the alignment system.

In PoE, there's no alignment - what do we know of the afterlife there? - are there 'evil' gods? or are there gods of war or something that would reward acts of 'glory' that the victims would call 'slaughter'?

 

im not an atheist... i just dont believe in the fairy tales religions tell about the "invisible man in the sky". because i dont know who or what god is, but he is definitly not something as small and petty as the limited imagination of humans 2k+ years ago made him out to be.



#23
Silent Winter

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im not an atheist... i just dont believe in the fairy tales religions tell about the "invisible man in the sky". because i dont know who or what god is, but he is definitly not something as small and petty as the limited imagination of humans 2k+ years ago made him out to be.

I agree, He's not.

Nonetheless, I also disagree on your interpretation of the text.

Find it odd that you can be 'definite' about any of it.

Let's leave it though - plenty of threads on this topic on other forums.



#24
Zeckul

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I don't subscribe to the idea that in some indefinite time in the past, people were very sure about heaven and hell, and now they're not really sure anymore because "science" or I don't know. Believers still believe and unbelievers still don't believe. Beliefs and behaviors haven't really changed. Believers still do plenty of evil despite fully believing in hell, and they're no different than 50, 100 or 1000 years ago in that regard.

The thing is that human beings are amazingly oblivious about the long-term consequences of their actions. We could ask a similar question: why don't people save for their old days if they know they will need money then? Well, because it's a long time away. We're just not wired to prioritize long-term consequences.

Hell also has a very intangible characteristic as no one alive has seen or experienced it. It's even more difficult to care about something essentially abstract in your mind.

So, I don't think the question is what would happen if people were really *sure* of its existence, because we can already see that people are simply not rational enough to always or even most often take that into account. However in D&D, the presence of Gods is a lot more tangible, so it could indeed make an impression on people. How exactly would be an interesting question.

I personally think that fantasy settings typically make for interesting and tense adventures, but day-to-day life for their inhabitants seems miserable and absurdly dangerous. Monsters everywhere, large-scale wars, arbitrary magic wreaking havoc, evil gods and demons roaming freely... At the same time, all the "gods" aren't "God" in the monotheistic sense of supreme beings, they're merely particularly powerful beings with the strange property of gaining power when people worship them - the best analogy in our world isn't really God but politicians. So people would live in constant fear and try to gather behind what they think is the most benevolent or otherwise advantageous deity. But if human nature is what it is here, they'd still pay way too little attention to the matter of their afterlife and some would certainly end up abandoned forever in some desolate place by their own negligence.

Edited by Zeckul, 12 September 2014 - 05:53 PM.

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#25
Zeckul

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Also, in a setting like Forgotten Realms, morality is all relative to the deity you worship - it's just a matter of flavor whether you want to follow an "evil" or "good" or "neutral" one. Either way, if you're faithful enough you'll get a pleasant afterlife. In FR, heaven and hell isn't really a matter of doing good or evil, but of being faithful to your god or not. There's no basis for objective morality anyway - the closest to that would be Ao, but he doesn't actually do anything as far as I know.

Edited by Zeckul, 12 September 2014 - 06:06 PM.


#26
crackwise

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Also, in a setting like Forgotten Realms, morality is all relative to the deity you worship - it's just a matter of flavor whether you want to follow an "evil" or "good" or "neutral" one. Either way, if you're faithful enough you'll get a pleasant afterlife. In FR, heaven and hell isn't really a matter of doing good or evil, but of being faithful to your god or not. There's no basis for objective morality anyway - the closest to that would be Ao, but he doesn't actually do anything as far as I know.

 

Thanks Zeckul for clarifying that up, I was not very sure how to interpret the Forgotton Realms deities and afterlife, since I know the setting only from the CRPGs. Then is it such that if you believe to an evil god, if you are a petty thief then you awaken in the hell as a pathetic being such as a slime or an imp etc.? Whereas, if you were very hardcore evil when you were alive, then you spawn as a demon? Is it the case how these things are handled?   Then it means if you are gonna be evil, you'd better be good at it! :p


Edited by crackwise, 13 September 2014 - 04:58 PM.


#27
Azrael Ultima

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Well, they are evil gods. Keep that in mind. Especially for the chaotic ones.

#28
RodWarrior

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Yep, there's that.

I mean, in the setting in question, I don't think people would be controlling their behaviour thinking about what is good or evil.

They would be adjusting to whatever their divinity commands.

But the truth is: Your behaviour would be totally attached to your god's will. People in general would be a lot more faithful to their beliefs, and that would change the whole dynamic of society in this setting.

Anyway, that's only my way of seeing things.



#29
nipsen

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What I really meant is, in Planescape setting for instance, characters can easily travel to the hells via dimensional planes. I was just brainstorming how would morality and religions function in a world where you could actually visit the places you will potentially spend time after death, while you are alive.

Arguably, each of the characters in Planescape: Torment are actually on their own personal journey through hell for the entirety of the game. Indeed, the game ends when the protagonist decides on his final punishment (or, if you're so inclined, redemption).

 

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)

Well, the thing is that your question really is founded on the presumption of the existence of an objective moral standard that applies to everyone. So the question is not whether or not hell exists. But in truth whether or not there is such a thing as a judging, all-knowing omnipresence. Or alternatively whether people actually only go to hell if they feel themselves that they deserve it.
 
Putting aside the crisis of faith for a moment, though -- lawful evil characters that are not cartoon villains can certainly make sense even if they believe in a hell with eternal fire and damnation. In two ways, actually. Either the characters eventually realize themselves that their actions are deserving of retribution. In which case lawful evil makes complete sense. They now not only justify themselves in the afterlife but also in the life they have come to live. Because there is a logical consequence to their behaviour: When I do evil things, I will pay for this in the afterlife. And this justifies the deeds the character will do to, for example, survive or live well in this life.
 
The other way is that the character justifies evil acts as part of the natural order of things, for example. They don't see the suffering of other people as something to avoid. They would perhaps live by the idea that the strong rule over the weak. And that there's no reason to complain if someone fights and kills you. That they then learn to revel in torturing others. Or destroying entire communities that might become a threat one day, or let some live to make sure that they will have a chance to take revenge and wage war on you in the future. Etc. That won't make the character committed to a neutral morality, but a very strict moral compass that ultimately justifies even the most heinous act.
 
In either case, the character actually believes in evil in certain ways. They know what suffering and hate is. But they justify and commit to the existence of it anyway.
 
Aside from that, all the D&D universes have various misguided sects and gods that lead on their followers to commit an array of acts, with a very thorough moral justification, that would mark them as dedicated and lawful evil. For all kinds of solid local justifications ranging from uncelestial godly rewards, to tortured guilt creating the framework for the servants unwillingly committing to evil as a concept, etc.
 

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

That's the new testament. Which hardly works without a subjective interpretation of what evil is. Where very likely people would only go to hell if they themselves believe they are deserving of it. Obviously the form of punishment would be subjectively decided as well.

 

Essentially, the concept of "lawful evil" has been very predictably interpreted into d&d to mean that the character acts with evil intent as a rule. That they seek to be traitorous, to stab people in the back at every possible opportunity, that they have no moral conscience, etc. But that's not the case.

 

What happens is that all the gods in the fantasy universe might intervene while the characters are still alive, and the alignments actually reflect you as a person. A paladin can commit "objectively" atrocious acts, but believe it's done in the service of good. And as such be a lawfully good person who genuinely tries to commit to good as a concept. And so won't actually fall from grace until they believe themselves that they have irreversibly tainted their soul in their blind zeal. At which point the gods and powers that be actually will instantly answer to the fact that the paladin now believe themselves to be evil.



#30
Zeckul

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Thanks Zeckul for clarifying that up, I was not very sure how to interpret the Forgotton Realms deities and afterlife, since I know the setting only from the CRPGs. Then is it such that if you believe to an evil god, if you are a petty thief then you awaken in the hell as a pathetic being such as a slime or an imp etc.? Whereas, if you were very hardcore evil when you were alive, then you spawn as a demon? Is it the case how these things are handled?   Then it means if you are gonna be evil, you'd better be good at it! :p

It entirely up to the specific god your worship, there are few universal rules. When you die you go to the Fugue plane and are judged by the current god of death (Kelemvor). If you are judged faithless you end up on the Wall of the Faithless (as illustrated in Mask of the Betrayer), it's not fun, you slowly dissolve and become part of it - meanwhile you could be stolen by a demon and be taken to the Abyss, which although more exciting is not necessarily preferable.  If you are judged False (betrayed your god), it's eternal punishment, although the punishment varies depending on your judgement. Also:

 

http://forgottenreal...iki/Fugue_Plane
Souls can reside in the city for up to a tenday before a divine servant comes to collect them, often completely clueless to the fact that they are dead. During that time, baatezu are allowed to inform souls of their state and bargain with them.[4] Souls are offered the chance to become devils themselves, usually starting as a lemure but having the chance to advance through the devilish ranks, possibly even becoming a pit fiend. This is the main way baatezu propagate. The prospect of becoming a devil may seem abhorrent to good-aligned mortals but those who follow evil deities and those who fear what awaits them in the afterlife are much more likely to take up the offer.

Edited by Zeckul, 16 September 2014 - 08:42 AM.


#31
Death Machine Miyagi

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Regardless of how it works in Forgotten Realms, I'm not sure how this issue relates to the fantasy setting of PoE. The post-death situation here seems to be reincarnation, with the rules behind that reincarnation unclear and subject to all your standard religious interpretations. 

 

That makes evil behavior considerably more comprehensible. That and the lack of anything like 'Detect Evil' spells.

 

I always wondered why in D&D worlds they didn't have low-level clerics perform a mandatory alignment check on suspected criminals. I mean, that whole trial sequence in NWN2 would have been really short if someone had just thought to cast a spell on the PC that reveals he or she is Lawful Good. I doubt you could retain Lawful Good status after massacring a village.


Edited by Death Machine Miyagi, 16 September 2014 - 04:34 PM.


#32
gkathellar

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I'm going to stay far away from discussion of RL morality here, and as has been mentioned, Eora's ethical consequences are not so clearly grounded.

 

But D&D? Now there's something I know way too much about.

 

I always wondered why in D&D worlds they didn't have low-level clerics perform a mandatory alignment check on suspected criminals. I mean, that whole trial sequence in NWN2 would have been really short if someone had just thought to cast a spell on the PC that reveals he or she is Lawful Good. I doubt you could retain Lawful Good status after massacring a village.

 

With respect to FR in particular: just because someone is evil doesn't mean they've done anything in particular that you can or should justifiably punish them for - only that, given the right opportunities and incentives, they would be significantly more inclined to. Evil deities like Umberlee, Talos, and Beshaba (among others) are worshiped openly all throughout the setting. It's not the evil deities who are unwelcome in polite society, but the antisocial ones like Bane and Cyric, for whom "murder everybody" and "breathe" mean the same thing.

 

The other thing is that on the D&D Great Wheel, people don't "go to heaven," or "go to hell," in the typical punishment-defined sense that we imagine it. When a mortal dies, after an initial waiting period they go to the realm of their patron deity, where they become a Petitioner. A Petitioner's job is to seek their deity's particular brand of enlightenment, working to bring themselves closer to the moral and personal ideals that this god embodies - the Powers, you see, are not just entities with big sticks, but physical ideals, literal ways of being made physically manifest in the planes. In achieving perfect harmony with their god's nature, the Petitioner merges with the deity as an equal participant in its existence. So a worshiper of Lolth goes to the Demonweb Pits when they die - not a pleasant place to be, mind you, but it's where they want to go, because Lolth is the thing they idealize most in the universe, and a thing that they can eventually join with and become a part of. For non-religious types (outside of FR), they become Petitioners for their alignment's plane itself. That can be considerably more unpleasant, but a Chaotic Evil petitioner still looks around the Abyss, looks at its masters, and thinks, "you know, it sucks being helpless here, but if I had just a little power, I would fit right in." And then they are part of miasma.

 

Unless an obyrith eats them first. Or if they're really bad, in which case the Dark Powers of Ravenloft get them well before death. But that's neither here nor there.


Edited by gkathellar, 17 September 2014 - 12:50 AM.






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