What do we mean when we say "evil"?

From Stacy Stroud (smstro1@pop.uky.edu)


I had just opined that demons who do nasty things 'cause they're scared of the consequences are still evil, precisely because they are such cowards.

Quoth Nathaniel Eliot:

Here, I don't agree. Somebody cannot be coerced into being evil; they aren't good by any stretch of imagination, and they aren't somebody I would like, but they aren't evil. They are selfish as I was using the word, in that they put their own suffering before somebody elses.


In general, I agree that one cannot be coerced into doing evil -- or at least, that the less freedom one has to choose otherwise, the less evil the act.

So demons who merely feel "stuck" in their situation are not as evil as they *could* be.

But I called them evil, not so much 'cause they're still doing nasty things, but precisely because they refuse to say "no" -- or at least, run for Earth or Heaven at the first opportunity.

Given the circumstances, I could perhaps excuse a demon who stayed quiet and "went along" for a time (which might have to be measured in centuries, admittedly), so that it could get assigned to Earth and therefore have at least a slim chance of going Renegade (and perhaps, seeking Redemption) successfully.

Similarly, someone planning to change Hell by working within the system, or plotting revolution in Hell and not wanting to blow his/her cover, escapes the "evil" label once their true motives become obvious.

On the other hand, none of the demons just described are fundamentally cowardly: all are willing to risk much to gain more -- and not just for themselves.

But a demon who doesn't have such plans, who just goes along and causes God-only-knows how much suffering simply to preserve its own pathetic existence, is evil in my book. Just as with humans who had horrible childhoods or insufficient moral education, their evil may be understandable -- but that doesn't make it justified.

[Aside: Mentioning underground movements in Hell just gave me an interesting campaign seed: Assuming Janus and Valefor are the same guy, what if the Prince of Theft has a network of demons charged with smuggling damned souls *out* of Hell (they only have to get as far as the two angels of Judgment at the gates)? After all, if *demons* can be Redeemed in IN, why not the already-damned? Such an action certainly fits the sneaky and freedom-loving nature of Janus/Valefor. Demon PCs in that campaign would not only not be evil, in my book, they'd be heroes.]

Stacy Stroud


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