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What does it mean to be Utterly Evil?


AlgaeNymph
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One of the complications demons have is Utterly Evil.  (This puts a damper on my fantasies of being captured, but I quite digress.)  But what does that mean?  How does that manifest in an NPC's actions?  The best I have are the sorts you'd see on 8chan and LinkedIn.  Does anyone with more relevant specialized knowledge have any better ideas?

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Well, every example I found for an official demon write-up with an Utterly Evil Psych Comp has it at the Very Common, Total level. How I would interpret that is that whenever such a demon has a choice of actions, it will choose the one that will cause the most pain, suffering, and/or anguish. For the more intelligent demons the onset of that pain need not be immediate, nor result in death. However, even if the result of that action would not be viewed by one of us as in said demon's best interest, it will perform that action anyway. I'm reminded of the old parable of the frog and the scorpion, where the scorpion persuaded the frog to carry it across a river on its back by pointing out that if it stung the frog they would both die; but stung the frog anyway, because that's its nature.

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If you truly have no idea what someone or something evil is like I congratulate you on your happy life.  Try watching a couple of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds or maybe something on the Holocaust.  If all else fails....watch the news almost any night.

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3 hours ago, Tjack said:

If you truly have no idea what someone or something evil is like I congratulate you on your happy life.  Try watching a couple of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds or maybe something on the Holocaust.  If all else fails....watch the news almost any night.

Or hell, look through some of the threads on Reddit. The 7 Deadly Sins show up there regularly. The only one that doesn’t seem as harmful to others is gluttony. 

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1 hour ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Or hell, look through some of the threads on Reddit. The 7 Deadly Sins show up there regularly. The only one that doesn’t seem as harmful to others is gluttony. 


   Don’t give them any ideas.  The next Reddit challenge will probably be “Eat something disgusting till you puke”.  (Or die.)

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A good place to start is that the demon has absolutely no concern for anyone but themselves.  If the action will not benefit them in some way they simply will not do it.  If something will result in a minor benefit to them, but causes major disaster to everything else they will do it.   They can and will pretend to do something nice, but in the end it will benefit them.  

 

Next they look at all others as competitors and they always try to screw their competitors. They use every opportunity to reduce someone else’s plans and resources in case they would be used against them.  Anything another creature has can be a threat to you, so never let anyone get ahead. You never allow anyone to gain more from something than you do if you can help it.  

 

Last is the utter lack of trust in anyone.  You are a monster and so is everyone else, no matter what they say.  Everyone is going to turn on you so doing it first is just being smart.   Good is an illusion that only the weak fall for.  There is no joy and the only comforts you can have are those you take for yourself. You are utterly alone because everyone is going to betray you.     
 

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5 hours ago, Tjack said:

If you truly have no idea what someone or something evil is like I congratulate you on your happy life.  Try watching a couple of episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds or maybe something on the Holocaust.  If all else fails....watch the news almost any night.

Well, the question wasn't what someone evil was like, but what someone utterly evil was like. That's... a bit more difficult, though I think LoneWolf gave an excellent description of what demonic evil would feel like from the inside.

 

It's why I don't use "Evil" as a Psych Lim. It's too vague. I try to give something more specific, such as Megalomania, Sadistic, Treacherous, Vindictive, or the like.For instance, Baphomet, as the Demon Emperor of Wrath, has "Loves Causing Destruction and Needless Pain," "Won't Refuse a Fight," and a passel of Berserks. Minion-level Wrath Demons have, "Attacks Anything In Its Way." Scratchets (Imps, basically) have "Loves Nasty Prtactical Jokes." Mephistopheles has "Truthful in Word but Treacherous in Spirit," "Can't Force Anything on Anyone," and "Avoides Combat." Okay, he's implacably dedicated to the ruin of humanity, but that's long-term; it isn't relevant at the moment you face him.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Well, there shouldn't be a Psychological Complication "Utterly And Totally Evil", as that is so open ended that it is up to the Game Master as what that actually is.

 

Mister Wicked is Lecherous and Melodramatically Murderous. MM basically says that he works deathtraps into ways of killing. If choosing between shooting, stabbing, or ropeing a person up and laying them onto the train tracks, he chooses train tracks 100% of the time. (Which of course is a weak point). A hero can easily take advantage of this limitation. 

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If this is a Complication, then there needs to be a downside for the character who is Utterly Evil.  That is going to be something along the lines of no one will trust an Utterly Evil character, and most people will actively hate them, probably wanting to kill or imprison them.  But notice that only works if it is generally known that the character is Utterly Evil, although it might be enough if they have ticked off enough powerful people, even if their personality isn't widely known.

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On 8/4/2021 at 12:10 PM, Scott Ruggels said:

What is the term for the mental illness where, you are the only person in the universe, and everyone else is there to serve them?

Narcissistic personality disorder.  Such "people" idealize and idolize those in power, if not seeking to be one themselves then living vicariously through them.  They have the charm to build a cult of personality around themselves and their delusions, but become nasty the moment someone pokes holes in their illogic.  And foremost; they are the most sanctimonious hypocrites you've ever met!  In short, they're either bullies or the bully's little pals.

 

18 hours ago, DShomshak said:

I think LoneWolf gave an excellent description of what demonic evil would feel like from the inside.

And I do as well.  In fact, it sort of reminds me of how the Nephandi are described in Book of the Fallen for Mage: the Ascension.

 

And while I'm talking about other RPGs, Ars Magica has Realms Of Power - The Infernal.  While through an Abrahamic lens, it gives a usefully thorough breakdown of a demon's psychology, though less about how they're evil so much as lacking virtue.  This results in them all being petty megalomaniacs with grandiose plans that fall apart due to poor impulse control.  They fight as a first resort, backstab at the first opportunity, flee at the slightest sign of trouble, and never learn from their mistakes.  Kinda reminds me of your stereotypical supervillain.  ; )

 

18 hours ago, DShomshak said:

It's why I don't use "Evil" as a Psych Lim. It's too vague. I try to give something more specific, such as Megalomania, Sadistic, Treacherous, Vindictive, or the like.

If I may go on a bit of a tangent, related to my previous thread, what would give the Seven Planetary Demons?

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1 hour ago, AlgaeNymph said:

If I may go on a bit of a tangent, related to my previous thread, what would give the Seven Planetary Demons?

That would depend upon what evil the demon represents. But if they can't choose but to do that evil, it is no longer a psychological complication but a physical one. If they can't change their nature and must do their evil whenever the opportunity shows themselves, and they can't stop, it stops being a mental problem. (Akin to The Scorpion and The Frog).

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On 8/4/2021 at 11:11 AM, AlgaeNymph said:

One of the complications demons have is Utterly Evil.  (This puts a damper on my fantasies of being captured, but I quite digress.)  

 

(I totally get that.)

 

On 8/4/2021 at 11:11 AM, AlgaeNymph said:

One of the complications demons have is Utterly Evil.  But what does that mean?  How does that manifest in an NPC's actions?

 

There have been many takes on evil, but IRL, even people doing the most horrifically evil things rarely think of themselves /as evil/, they think they're doing something for a greater good, or they have no choice, or they don't understand, or, at the outside as some of the above, don't care or don't feel.

 

But a demon, a demon could be Utterly Evil, it does evil, because it knows that what it's doing is evil, and doing evil is it's strongest motivation and highest aspiration.  Because /being/ evil is its essential identity and it couldn't bear to be - or even think of itself as - anything but entirely evil.  

 

Heck, demons probably get all angsty and conflicted when they accidentally do something that has a good consequence for someone.

 

 

(I know that's whacked morality that doesn't work, and there's probably a category error in there somewhere, but demons aren't real, so...)

 

 

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The thing about the Abrahamic demons, as defined in the Hero Universe, is that they are spawned out of the imagination of sentient beings as the embodiment of evil. As Opal points out, real people don't think of themselves as evil, but demons think evil, do evil, live evil, because they were made to be evil.

 

For role-playing purposes it may help to remember famous fictional characters who revel in the physical and mental suffering they cause: Hannibal Lecter, Emperor Palpatine, The Joker, Maleficent (animated version, not live action). These characters feel satisfaction, joy, fulfillment, from spreading evil. They aren't really people, they're archetypes.

 

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Evil people want something. However depraved, callous, and cruel they are, they are looking to fulfill a human need. By contrast, something that is Utterly Evil gains satisfaction only by doing the kind of evil things it embodies. Among other things, this means if the creature pretends to be fair, magnanimous, or to be serving a greater purpose, it is always lying. It's a lot easier to pretend something that has a grain of truth or that you somewhat understand, so an Utterly Evil demon has to completely manufacture all of its behavior when it pretends to help you. There's nothing about it really capable or deserving of redemption. Like Overconfidence or Narcissism or a Hero's Code, it does have a certain predictability which can be exploited.

Further, if some magic or miracle requires a non-evil motivation to work, it never works for the demon, except under the circumstances one might defy a Total Psychological Limitation.

That said, I probably wouldn't make it a Total limitation unless that kind of magic came up very often. Although its evil is absolute, its actual behavior is only bound by its preferences in the moment. I can conceive of a demon that always does the most evil thing, not necessarily the one that meets its own personal goals, but I don't think that's much like the demons I've encountered in fiction.

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20 hours ago, AlgaeNymph said:

If I may go on a bit of a tangent, related to my previous thread, what would give the Seven Planetary Demons?

Well, I gave Aratron, the Demon of Saturn, "Relentless in Pursuit and Attack" (Very Common, Strong). Like old age and death, Aratron is not distracted, dissuaded or turned aside.

 

In my D&D campaign, I designed my own fiends to be warlock patrons and Big Bads instead of using published materials, because I gotta be me. Theologians know that the dimension of Hell generates fiends in response to mortal ideas of evil, as scapegoats for mortal behavior and to explain misfortune. Each fiend therefore embodies desires that someone wants restrained, or something otherwise hated and feared. For instance...

 

Apollyon

AKA: Tartaruchos, the Destroying Angel, Scourge of God, Lord of Punishment

 

If Hell didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent it — so people did. Apollyon is the fiend of retribution. People want to believe the wicked will be punished, and the Destroying Angel delivers that punishment. Ah, but no one is innocent; all have sinned in someone’s eyes; and so this most righteous fiend seeks to drag or lure all mortals into Hell so he can torture them forever.

 

Apollyon manifests as a winged man, majestic and coldly handsome, robed and crowned with white fire and carrying a flaming scourge. The erinyes are his special servants, but he employs warlocks as well. Apollyon commands that his warlocks emulate him as scourges upon the mortal world, uncovering all sins and punishing them with merciless severity. He prefers that his warlocks choose the Pact of the Blade, with whips, flails, the headsman’s axe and executioner’s sword as favored weapons.

 

One of my side-projects is trying to come up with iends for the various nonhuman races, since their ideas of evil might not track exactly with conventional human notions. For instance, hobgoblins esteem military discipline and loyalty to their cohort. They condemn Adharma, the fiend of willfulness, who tempts them to act on their own desires instead of following orders. They tell stories about how a moment of pity or affection led to betrayal and ruin for the cohort.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

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"Good" and "evil" are simply a group of societal norms subconsciously agreed upon by a society of people, and reinforced by additional behavior (including laws and enforcement, etc.).

 

So, most bad guys in real life, rationalize their negative behavior.  Even most mentally ill serial killers, rationalize their behavior.  Hitler, rationalized his behavior.

 

I am not saying any of them were right, or should be "understood" or sympathized with in any way; only that it is VERY HARD to actually find an example of a "villain" from real life, who actually saw themselves/their behavior as "Evil".

 

So, to me, when I see "Utterly Evil" as a complication; I read it as a being who is the polar opposite; they literally cannot conceive of being "good" - so they're every action is "Evil", and they cannot hide it (at least not for long).

 

As a complication for the character, there needs to be some ramifications - some consequence - so for me, I read it like their behavior is so bad, and they enjoy it so much, they cannot hide it and everyone, even the "normal" bad guys or mentally ill, see them for what they are - and that is so alien to the human mind, that they would likely either seek to destroy them or flee them (fight or flight).

 

The Cenobites from Clive Barker (Hellraiser) and the Horror's from Earthdawn (TTRPG) are examples of beings who know they are Evil, and actually feed off the anguish they cause others - and in both cases are completely alien to the human mind.

 

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Now I'm picturing a scenario in which utterly evil beings are invading, but one of them is mentally ill or really twisted by it's life experiences, and starts helping the humans, and doing good, but is unable to face that so rationalized it as evil.  " I'm not saving you, I'm using you as part of a plot against my enemies..."

 

...I think Spike may have gone through a phase like that on Buffy...

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I would see this less as a dictate on what you do and don't do, but more as a simple fact about you. This is the ideal Distinctive Features description for any setting with a "Hell" that some beings are native to. This is basically just a sign that while you may never do anything immoral (and therefore evil), you still set off any demon detectors around you, glow red instead of blue when angel/demon vision is used on you, and so on and so on, because you are Evil (but in the setting specific, allied with hell variety) even if you save the world every day and heal sick puppies every night. 

 

Mortals who care about morality and kind deeds will want to know more about you, but Angels who will serve certain gods, clerics and paladins who have bought into those Gods and all of their "divine word", and even some of the mortals who simply don't know better than to judge you based on shiny magic spells that say "this is a thing of pure evil, kill it now", will all murder your current form on sight, but other demons and hell-oath mortal mages will not necessarily ally with you, because they know that simply being aligned with "Evil" together does not mean that you two have the same goals or moral codes. Hence why it is a disadvantage.

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DoctorImposible bring up a good point.  Like many things in the Hero System complications can be purchased in different ways.  Utterly Evil could be a Psychological Complication, a Physical Complication or even a Distinctive Feature.  Each of them would affect the character differently.  The Distinctive feature aspect was pretty well cover by DoctorImposible.

 

If it is a Physical Complication that means that the demon is incapable of doing anything good.  This means that demons do not have free will and are utterly irredeemable.  In a way they are simply a highly sophisticated construct.  They are not really responsible for their actions because they have no choice.  This is a pretty black and white scenario and leads to the “it’s evil so just kill it” attitude.

 

 As Psychological Complication the demon does in fact have free will.   They choose to be this way and could conceivable decide to change.  Why they choose to be this way could be for a number of reasons, but in the end it still comes down to their own decision.  Because demons tend to have high EGO this probably needs to be a total commitment or it is fairly useless.  The fact it is a psychological complication already gives it more wiggle room than if it were a physical complication.   The demon can already pretend to be good if it is advancing their evil plans without a roll.  The roll is only needed when the demon is trying to actually do something good.  

 

Depending on the nature of the campaign or character all or some of them could be used.  Maybe lesser demons have the physical complication and as they grow in power they gain free will.  
 

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On 8/6/2021 at 9:47 AM, DShomshak said:

Well, I gave Aratron, the Demon of Saturn, "Relentless in Pursuit and Attack" (Very Common, Strong). Like old age and death, Aratron is not distracted, dissuaded or turned aside.

And Hagith?  For...reasons.

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On 8/10/2021 at 9:02 PM, AlgaeNymph said:

And Hagith?  For...reasons.

Which are none of my business. <whistles innocently>

 

Venus is traditionally the planet of love and "gentler" emotions. Nogah, the Heaven of Venus in kabbalism, displays "outward splendor but inward corruption." As the Demon of Venus, Hagith shows these qualities in their worst form.

 

As a sort of high-grade incubus/succubus, Hagith claims to be a lover, not a fighter. Manipulator might be more accurate, though. Hagith always offers to negotiate, preferably in a lush silk pavilion twined with roses, furnished with velvet cushions, a buffet of top-quality chocolates and other delicacies, and a hot tub. Maybe even a hot tub of blackberry wine. All of which he materializes with a snap of his fingers. Hagith's other powers center on Mind Control. Sometimes he gets his jollies by creating networks of lust and repugnance to set a group of people in chaos, but he often thinks that's too much like work. Easier just to tempt people with luxury and pleasure, cutting them off from their old lives, to waste their time in idle hedonism. For evil to triumph, they say, it is only necessary that good folk do nothing. Hagith specializes in arranging that distraction.

 

So, the actual Psychological Complications might be:

 

Prefers Negotiation/Temptation to Combat (Very Common, Strong)

Indolent Hedonist (Common)

Cruelly Manipulative (Common)

 

Hagith appears as a slender, androgynous man with copper skin and long green hair (I am told the proper descriptor is 'bishi'), decked with primroses and poppies. He wears a green silk chiton, with flowering vines twined around his limbs and waist. Floral perfume surrounds him, with just a faint hint of rot.

 

Dean Shomsha1k

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