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 of mortal-kind.

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.