Good and Evil in MK2K:
Characters like Isri Fallon, the good-hearted succubus, raise an interesting question: are fiends really inherently evil or not? And for that matter, are celestials really inherently good?
This is a complicated issue and always has been, though more so since the
Great Fall. Some among the Lothanasi had always
suspected that the final battle for supremacy between the gods
and daedra lords, if it ever came, wouldn't be about who was right
as much as who was left. In other words, victory was more important to
either side than the fate of the mortals trapped in the middle. While some of
the gods do legitimately care about humanity, they weren't the ones driving
the war effort to defeat Ba'al and his Daedra
Council -- Kammoloth, Samekkh
and Dokorath were the ones at the reins,
and all of them were pragmatic enough to put victory before the short-term good
So who's really good among the celestials? Nymphs,
high nymphs, glimmers,
kerubs, and the Nine
Muses are the most pure-hearted of the bunch, though nymphs are more concerned
with non-intelligent life than the sentient mortal races. The Fates,
of course, are neutral. Devas, archons
and high archons tend to fall somewhere
in the spectrum from good to neutral; some of them care about mortals and seek
to help them, but many are totally focused on fighting the
War, and only care about mortals to the degree they will help advance that
aim. Eladrins, being chaotic, vary substantially:
some care about the War, some care about helping individual mortals, and some
don't seem to care much about anything but themselves and their immediate friends.
Among the fiends, the balrogs and wraiths
are the most bloodthirsty and depraved; if any one of these beings has ever
been redeemed, there are no records of it. Mariliths
and nephilim tend to be equally vicious,
since blood-thirst is almost a necessity to advance through the ranks of Hell;
however, a scant few have the intellect and foresight to recognize that a more
moderate approach is sometimes called for. For these daedric military leaders
the War is simply about defeating an opponent, kill or be killed, survival of
the fittest; they have no ambitions to cover the mortal world with a plague
of terror and darkness. These individuals might be considered neutral.
Dark nymphs, dread
nymphs, and other former servants of Lilith
now find themselves under Talia's command.
With her sanity restored, Talia began to bend the essence of the Vampire Queen
into something more neutral than evil, and her servants have been changed along
with it. The guiding term for Talia's servants is pragmatic self-interest
-- they won't go out of their way to help somebody who doesn't serve their
cause, but they won't torment mortals for fun, either. You wouldn't want to
get them mad at you, but be polite and you should be fine.
The other fiends -- incubi, succubae,
and gremlins -- are the most "worldly"
breeds of daedra, and as such they find that they have more in common with the
mortal races than with the militaristic daedra who insist on perpetuating their
messy, awful War. (Granted, they don't want the celestials to win, either, because
that would mean the devas would be coming for them in short order.) The
vast majority of those alive today were born in the Dreamlands
or on the Material Plane; they have no memory of the Hells, never saw their
dominion in its glory. Since these daedra were deserters in the War, they didn't
grow up listening to the nationalistic rhetoric of the Lords of Hell-in-Exile,
either. Being thus removed from the environment, both metaphysical and cultural,
that promoted an evil outlook on life, many of these beings have ended up drifting
away from evil into neutrality -- sometimes even beyond.
These days, gremlins tend to live on the fringes of mortal society -- skulking
in alleys and sewers, stealing and scavenging for food, drink, and other things
that strike their fancy. They still enjoy playing with people's heads (and bodies),
but in the long run their pranks are rarely harmful to anything but one's dignity.
Some find jobs as assistants to wizards, since their knowledge of spellcraft
is vast in spite of their unassuming appearance.
Incubi and succubae, as noted above, tend to assimilate into the mortal cultures
even more easily than vampires: being beautiful, charismatic, intelligent, and
able to walk without fear in light or darkness, they can quickly endear themselves
to those around them. True, they still need to have sex with mortals in order
to gain energy, and some of them still revel in seducing and corrupting
naïve and innocent mortals as much as their hell-born ancestors ever did.
But for a lot of them, finding their next partner/meal has no more malice behind
it than a trip to the butcher shop; they need to feed, and they enjoy it, but
they don't take any particular glee in promoting corruption or misery among
the mortal population. Whereas a thousand years ago an incubus might have gone
out of his way to find a pure young virgin and slowly turn her into a sex-hungry
tramp, a modern-day incubus would be perfectly happy to find a "party girl"
whose encounters with mortal men were far more dangerous to her than he would
ever be. (Incubi, after all, can't carry STDs.) Nowadays, in fact, many incubi
and succubae view seducing innocents as bad form -- though those in direct service
to Suspira have no such compunctions, since
Hedonist dogma teaches that immersion in the pleasures
of the flesh will bring freedom and self-discovery.
As for Isri Fallon, she's fairly unusual but not unique.
She's best described as Chaotic Neutral, and leans more toward Good than Evil;
she has no loyalties to Suspira or her cause, cares nothing about the War, and
loves being around humans and their culture. She enjoys mothering on people,
and the responses of love and gratitude that she receives in return; in this
respect, you might say she's driven to do good because she likes how it feels.
She forms bonds and establishes loyalty toward people on the basis of personal
relationships; she'll risk herself to protect her friends, employees and tenants,
but she wouldn't do the same for a stranger or a casual acquaintance. She's
good-hearted enough that she won't manipulate her tenants into letting her feed
on them -- but she's not running a charity, and she won't do anything to help
them avoid that "alternative payment plan" if they're short on cash
for the rent. Let there be no mistake, she greatly enjoys having sex with the
young men and women who comprise the majority of her tenants, and she will do
so as often as they're open to it. The fact that she sees no conflict between
her urge to mother her tenants and her drive to have sex with them is a clear
demonstration that, as good as some daedra can be, human ethics and morality
are always going to be at least a little bit alien to them.
In sum, there seem to be four major components that play into an outsider's alignment: heredity, environment, culture, and personal choice. Heredity can't be changed -- succubae will always be linked with sex, and nymphs will always be tied to nature. Environment -- whether in the Heavens, the Hells, the Dreamlands, or the Material Plane -- seems to have a major impact on how much an outsider is pushed, subconsciously, toward Good or Evil, Order or Chaos. Culture can strongly effect what the individual believes is important, what is desirable, what is necessary, etc.; individuals raised from birth to fight in the War will tend to view everything else as secondary. Finally, the choices that an individual makes will affect the way she is treated by the beings around her, which in turn alters her culture and environment; e.g., the positive response Ms. Fallon receives for her "motherly" behavior encourages her to continue to develop this behavior, thus pushing her closer to Good and further from Evil. This will, in turn, alter her available options (as she perceives them) the next time her personal choice becomes important. Repeat this process many times over, and you can end up with a daedra who behaves in a Neutral or Good manner virtually all the time -- or, conversely, you could have a deva slowly slide from her moral high ground, until she is committing outright evil acts in her attempts to destroy her "wicked" enemies. The message for clerics in MK2K is clear: determining an outsider's intentions is no longer as simple as checking for horns or feathers.