Thursday, May 26, 2011

Holmes & Cook: Evil

While answering Roger's question this morning I realized that I had failed to utilize the various spells with Evil as part of their monicker in trying to figure out what Holmes & Cook might mean about evil as part of an alignment system. Between the two, there are four of these spells:
  • Detect Evil
  • Dispel Evil
  • Protection from Evil
  • Protection from Evil 10'r.
Let me begin with the latter two, since they are supposed to be the same spell with a different area of effect; however, since the basic spell is in Holmes and the radius spell is from Cook, we are given two different views on how the spell works:

Protection from Evil — This spell hedges the conjurer round with a magic circle to keep out attacks from enchanted monsters such as elementals, invisible stalkers, demons, etc. [Holmes]

Protection from Evil 10'r. — This spell circles the caster with a magical barrier that will protect all friendly creatures within 10' of the cleric, magic-user or elf. The spell serves as some protection from "evil" attacks (attacks by monsters of an alignment other than the caster's). [Cook]

These two appear to contradict each other. Cook is dealing with an alignment axis of Law-Neutrality-Chaos, so "evil" needs to be redefined — as an alignment other than the caster's. In reality this isn't that far off from Holmes' version, in that Protection from Evil is a reversible spell in Holmes. Thus, it ostensibly protects the caster from those of differing alignments.

What is missing in Cook, however, is the implication that the spell will be ineffective against Neutrals. Intriguingly, though, two of the three examples Holmes gives for "enchanted monsters" have, according to Cook, a neutral alignment.

If, however, neutral = animal then it is possible to say that the spell has no effect on animals and therefore maintain the implication of not affecting neutrals despite Cook's presentation of the invisible stalker and elementals.

Unfortunately, this doesn't say much about evil as an alignment. The examples of enchanted monsters given by Holmes have less to do with alignment than they do with summoning magics. This continues the theme that arcane magic is inherently dangerous and potentially corrupting, but doesn't really say anything to what an evil alignment looks like.

Dispel Evil — This spell will banish or destroy any enchanted or undead monster that comes in range if the creature fails its saving throw vs. Spells. [Cook]

Cook aligns the undead with Chaos, and, as noted above, there are several examples of enchanted monsters that are neutral. Once again, this says less about alignment than it does about the nature of arcane magic.

Detect Evil — A spell to detect evil thought or evil intent in any creature or evilly enchanted object. Poison, however, is neither good nor evil. [Holmes]

Given that the word evil isn't really explained, this, too, isn't much help for defining evil as an alignment; however, it does speak to the notion of meta-gaming. The way Holmes describes this spell, it is possible to detect evil from a Lawful Good creature and completely fail to do so from a Chaotic Evil creature, depending upon the circumstance. Holmes gives the Referee a lot of leeway as to how this spell can be implemented.

I suppose one might be tempted to take these spells and postulate that divine magic is good and arcane magic is evil. Personally, I do not want to go there. From a practical point of view, it appears to prevent magic-users and clerics from being in the same adventuring party. Having someone else's choice of class impose upon everyone else what they can and cannot be is not fun (I've been there with barbarians and paladins).

From a personal point of view, I do not believe that any part of creation is inherently evil. God called His creation very good. What makes something good or evil is in how we use it. This is why I prefer describing arcane magic as dangerous rather than evil.

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