A Philosopher's Blog

Lawful Good

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on October 6, 2014
Paladin II

Paladin II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I have written in other posts on alignments, it is often useful to look at the actual world in terms of the D&D alignment system. In this essay, I will look at the alignment that many players find the most annoying: lawful good (or, as some call it, “awful good”).

Pathfinder, which is a version of the D20 D&D system, presents the alignment as follows:

 A lawful good character believes in honor. A code or faith that she has unshakable belief in likely guides her. She would rather die than betray that faith, and the most extreme followers of this alignment are willing (sometimes even happy) to become martyrs.

A lawful good character at the extreme end of the lawful-chaotic spectrum can seem pitiless. She may become obsessive about delivering justice, thinking nothing of dedicating herself to chasing a wicked dragon across the world or pursuing a devil into Hell. She can come across as a taskmaster, bent upon her aims without swerving, and may see others who are less committed as weak. Though she may seem austere, even harsh, she is always consistent, working from her doctrine or faith. Hers is a world of order, and she obeys superiors and finds it almost impossible to believe there’s any bad in them. She may be more easily duped by such impostors, but in the end she will see justice is done—by her own hand if necessary.

In the fantasy worlds of role-playing games, the exemplar of the lawful good alignment is the paladin. Played properly, a paladin character is a paragon of virtue, a word of righteousness, a defender of the innocent and a pain in the party’s collective ass. This is because the paladin and, to a somewhat lesser extent, all lawful good characters are very strict about being good. They are usually quite willing to impose their goodness on the party, even when doing so means that the party must take more risks, do things the hard way, or give up some gain. For example, lawful good characters always insist on destroying unholy magical items, even when they could be cashed in for stacks of gold.

In terms of actual world moral theories, lawful good tends to closely match virtue theory: the objective is to be a paragon of virtue and all that entails. In actual game play, players tend to (knowingly or unknowingly) embrace the sort of deontology (rules based ethics) made famous by our good dead friend Immanuel Kant. On this sort of view, morality is about duty and obligations, the innate worth of people, and the need to take action because it is right (rather than expedient or prudent). Like Kant, lawful good types tend to be absolutists—there is one and only one correct solution to any moral problem and there are no exceptions. The lawful good types also tend to reject consequentialism—while the consequences of actions are not ignored (except by the most fanatical of the lawful good), what ultimately matters is whether the act is good in and of itself or not.

In the actual world, a significant number of people purport to be lawful good—that is, they claim to be devoted to honor, goodness, and order. Politicians, not surprisingly, often try to cast themselves, their causes and their countries in these terms. As might be suspected, most of those who purport to be good are endeavoring to deceive others or themselves—they mistake their prejudices for goodness and their love of power for a devotion to a just order. While those skilled at deceiving others are dangerous, those who have convinced themselves of their own goodness can be far more dangerous: they are willing to destroy all who oppose them for they believe that those people must be evil.

Fortunately, there are actually some lawful good types in the world. These are the people who sincerely work for just, fair and honorable systems of order, be they nations, legal systems, faiths or organizations. While they can seem a bit fanatical at times, they do not cross over into the evil that serves as a key component of true fanaticism.

Neutral good types tend to see the lawful good types as being too worried about order and obedience. The chaotic good types respect the goodness of the lawful good types, but find their obsession with hierarchy, order and rules oppressive. However, good creatures never willingly and knowingly seriously harm other good creatures. So, while a chaotic good person might be critical of a lawful good organization, she would not try to destroy it.

Chaotic evil types are the antithesis of the lawful good types and they are devoted enemies. The chaotic evil folks hate the order and goodness of the lawful good, although they certainly delight in destroying them.

Neutral evil types are opposed to the goodness of the lawful good, but can be adept at exploiting both the lawful and good aspects of the lawful good. Of course, the selfishly evil need to avoid exposure, since the good will not willingly suffer their presence.

Lawful evil types can often get along with the lawful good types in regards to the cause of order. Both types respect tradition, authority and order—although they do so for very different reasons. Lawful evil types often have compunctions that can make them seem to have some goodness and the lawful good are sometimes willing to see such compunctions as signs of the possibility of redemption. In general, the lawful good and lawful evil are most likely to be willing to work together at the societal level. For example, they might form an alliance against a chaotic evil threat to their nation. Inevitably, though, the lawful good and lawful evil must end up in conflict. Which is as it should be.


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Paladin Tanking in Cataclysm

Posted in Video Games by Michael LaBossiere on December 26, 2010
World of Warcraft
Image via Wikipedia

The basics of Paladin tanking have not changed. As always, there are two main goals: holding aggro and not dying. As always, doing this rests partially on your gear, partially on your build, and largely on your skill.

As far as gearing, build and the basic tanking rotation, the best source of information is on Elitist Jerks. This is the place to start.

While Elitist Jerks do a great job, their main focus is on showing readers how to build a tank that is number optimized rather than on how to actually go about doing the tanking-especially in PUGs. As such, I thought I’d say a bit about the Paladin abilities in the context of tanking in general and PUG groups in particular.

One thing I have found very useful is having a mental “pre-tanking” checklist to make sure all my tanking stuff is active. The most critical is, of course, Righteous Fury. This is essential to holding aggro. Without this, you will see the mobs rushing to kill the DPS and healer and then lots of swearing in party chat. This will be directed at you. Even if you are all tank all the time, Righteous Fury turns off when you die (and when you change specs)-so be sure to activate it after a death. When questing you will want to turn it off, unless you like having other folks’ mobs being pulled to you by your AOEs.

You will also want to make sure that you have your seal (Seal of Truth) and aura (Devotion in most cases) are active. You can wait to buff (Kings or Might) once you get in the instance. As druids always remind me, Kings=Mark of the Wild, so if you have a filthy druid in the party, be sure to use Might.

If you have other consumable based buffs (potions, scrolls, or food) these can usually be put up at the start of the instance. At the end of WotLK I didn’t bother much with these consumables-even the heroics were super easy. However, now that I am re-gearing I have found that the buffs can make the difference between wiping and winning. Once you are super geared and everything is easy again, these consumable will be less important..

Once you get in an instance, be sure to see who is in the party. Obviously, if you are in a group of friends/guild mates, then you will already know the classes, etc. However, if you are in a PUG, it is a good idea to see what sort of DPS and healer you have in the group. Party composition can change the dynamics of tanking. For example, if you have all melee DPS then they will tend to be very close to you, thus making it easier to get aggro back from them. If, however, you have ranged DPS, you’ll have to keep an eye on them to make sure that they are not picking up adds as they cravenly try to get as far from the fight as possible. In the case of healers, the different classes have different buffs and styles. If, for example, you have a shaman healer, then you will want to make an effort to stay in range of his totems.

As always, tanking starts with pulling. It is generally a good idea to mark targets so people know what to attack, what to sheep and so on. Pulling hasn’t changed much, aside from the fact that Hand of Reckoning doesn’t do damage anymore. I usually pull the main target with the hand and use the shield on any casters to properly motivate them. I then try to get Consecration down and blast with Holy Wrath so as to get aggro on everything. Most DPS folks are not willing to give you even a second to grab and hold aggro, so you will generally have to focus on getting as much AOE threat out there as fast as possible. Also, most DPS do not get the idea that they have some responsibility in managing threat-so you’ll have to assume that this is all up to you.

In most fights I rely on Hammer of Wrath rather than Crusader Strike (even single target tanking). This is because the talents and glyph seem to make this a better attack. However, the numbers have not been completely crunched on this. In any case, you want to be cranking out the HoW and CS attacks to generate Holy Power.

Holy Power is a new resource and is kind of like the DK runes. Each HoW/CS hit generates 1 Holy Power, up to the capacity of three.  Coincidently, there are three things you can spend Holy Power on.

Ideally, you want to use all three Holy Power on your Shield of the Righteous. This does impressive damage and also creates a lot of single target threat. You can also use your Holy Power on Inquisition (which boosts your Holy damage). However, the Shield seems to be the priority for Holy Power.

You can also spend Holy Power on Word of Glory. This is an instant cast heal that has the added bonus of giving you a damage shield if you over heal (provided you have the talent-which you should). If your healer is sub-optimal, you will probably be spending your Holy Power on Word during all the fights. This, unfortunately, makes holding aggro harder and prolongs the fights (since your damage drops off). However, I have tanked many PUGs where the only thing between a wipe and a win was my self healing.

Avenging Wrath is a useful ability, one that I generally save for boss fights or when I know it will be ready for the boss fight. I do, however, avoid wasting it on bosses that are rigged to fear or otherwise break the fight. The damage boost helps in keeping aggro (and killing mobs).

If you happen to lose aggro, the Hand of Reckoning is good for getting it back. Righteous Defense is also very useful for saving another party member when they put out to much threat or get jumped by adds. As a last ditch rescue, the Hand of Protection will save a party member from physical attacks. Divine Guardian is also very useful and not just for cases in which other party members have aggro. The 20% damage reduction for everyone else can be a real life saver when a boss is throwing out a nasty AOE. Holy Radiance, an AOE heal, is also useful in assisting the healer in those broad damage situations.

One final concern is the matter of not dying. While a good healer will make this easier, you will probably PUG with some bad healers from time to time. Also, just as it is not your job alone to manage threat, it is also not the healer’s job alone to keep you alive.

Divine Protection is an ability that I use pretty much every fight. It has a 1 minute cool down and gives a nice damage reduction. It is especially useful when the mob/boss is popping out some high damage special attack. This ability helps make the healer’s job easier.

Divine Shield is the ultimate damage reducer in that it makes you immune. The downside is that it breaks threat. This can be used in certain conditions to break (or avoid) a nasty effect. However, you have to be sure to drop it and then regain the aggro. In some cases it can literally save the day-I have finished off at least two bosses after everyone else died by bubbling and beating the boss to death.

Lay on Hands is a major life saver. In general, you should use it either on yourself (when the healer is failing, OOM or dead) or the healer. It is generally not a good idea to spend it on a DPS, unless that DPS is somehow critical.

If you were Paladin tanking before, Ardent Defender probably saved your holy bacon a few times. It still can, but now you have to actively save your own bacon-it is activated manually now. Like most Paladins, I use this as my “oh sh@t” button and hit it when my health is way low and the healer cannot or will not save me. Timing it just right can be challenging. After all, it is intended for when the next hit (or a few hits after that) will kill you.

The final ability is, of course, Guardian of Ancient Kings. While it does not last long and has a significant cool down, it is a great ability for tough fights. In general, this is best used during the boss phases that are the most damage intensive.

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Hand Reckoning

Posted in Video Games by Michael LaBossiere on January 24, 2009

In the most recent patch, Blizzard added the Hand of Reckoning spell to the Paladin. This ability is a taunt that finally enables a Paladin to engage in ranged pulling. Prior to this, Paladin Pulling meant closing with the enemy and getting their attention in that manner. There were some obvious disadvantages with this. For example, since Paladins could not pull a monster (yeah,I know they are called “mobs”, but I’m marked by years of D&D…a mob is a crowd, a monster is a monster) from a distance, they ran a greater risk of accidentally pulling unwanted monsters. The standard WoW pull is like a classic mugging-you lure a monster away from its friends and gang up on it. Now Paladins can enjoy what other classes have long enjoyed.

The ability works well, although it does only one point of damage.  When I first saw that, I thought “one point of damage? Seriously?” Of course, its intent is to pull so damage is not really critical. Also, giving the Paladin an effective  general opening ranged attack would be a rather radical change to the class (and one that might create balance problems). I’ve found that it changes my play dynamic quite a bit, especially in groups. Since my Paladin, Xathon,  is Protection specialized, it helps me start the fight with the aggro. In my normal group, my main job is to stay alive while everyone else pours on the DPS-so this makes my job much easier.

The Hand of Reckoning can critical-I’ve seen that mighty “2” damage pop up over monsters. That is a bit funny. It will also kill most critters instantly (I had to try). So, you can use the power of the light to blow up squirrels from a distance-just as the light intended.

The name is a bit odd, though. All the other Paladin Hands are beneficial spells applied to the Paladin or other characters. For example, the Hand of Freedom frees the target from snares. “Reckoning” is also an odd term as well. In my group, we jokingly call it the Religious Pamphlet-I imagine my character is throwing a rock with a religious pamphlet attached to it.

Xathon: “Okay, I’ll pull the troll to the left.”
Goldstein: “Y’all do that. I’ll start shooting him when he gets close.”
Xanu: “I’ll loot him when he dies.”
Xathon: “Pulling now.”
Troll: “What the hell? Did that Paladin just hit me in the head with a rock? What’s this tied to it? Is that a religious pamphlet? No, I don’t need to be saved by the Light…Hey, this says I’m a filthy infidel! You son of a…I’ll kill you!”
Goldstein: “Here he comes! I’m shooting him in the face!”
Xanu: “Hack! Stab! Hack!”
Troll: “Arrgh, my spleen…save me Evil God of the Bad Trolls!”
Xathon: “The Light will save you. Specifically, the Judgment of Light I’m dropping on you…then my hammer.”
Troll: “Hey, stop looting me…I’m not dead yet.”
Xanu: “Sorry. Stab. Hack. Execute!”
Troll: “Blooorp…”
Xathon: “By the blessings of the Light…yadda…yadda…I’ll roll greed on that Blue.”