[MUD-Dev] OT: Caballah [was Character development]

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Sun Apr 12 05:54:19 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On 01:32 AM 4/12/98 +0000, I personally witnessed Alex Oren jumping up to say:
>On Thu, 9 Apr 1998 20:26:10 PST8PDT, Vadim Tkachenko wrote:
>} Like, can the Caballist be a Paladin? [...] and if it
>} happens, say, that the one who is a Caballist will try to perform some
>} good (positive-aligned) actions, the backfire will be tremendous, but
>} anyway one would be able to do that.
>Why is there a problem with Caballists performing "good (positive-aligned)"
>The Caballah is the Jewish mysticism.  It tries to explain the working of the
>universe from the Jewish religion POV and, on some levels, provide means to
>influence it.  Would you say Physics is inherently evil?

Yes, but only we Jews and serious occult buffs recognise this. The rest of
the world equates anything which is not Christian with evil, unless it's a
major religion (Islam, Buddhism, etc.) in which case it assumes some level
of neutrality. Excepting of course those religions that align themselves in
name or actuality with infernal forces by deliberate design, e.g. the late
Anton LaVey's church of Satanism (which, if anyone would stop and pay
attention to it for longer than it takes to read the word 'Satan' in the
church's name, has about as much to do with Satan as Christianity has to do
with coconut cream pie). 

On the other hand, the Qabalah (it's spelled several ways; this is the way
I learned as 'correct' in college, although it most likely isn't) may not
be what the author intends. In the old BBS door game 'Ultimate Universe',
the enemy of the human players is a group called the Cabal. Caballah might
be a semi-original concept of magical forces, based on the common
interpretation of 'cabal' as meaning a group of shady, disloyal, subversive
types who meet and act in secret to the detriment of society. Sort of like
'coven' and 'cult' bring certain generally unfavorable images to mind.
(Marshall Applewhite... AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!)

It is also common in fantasy games to reflect not reality as we know it,
but as it was perceived in the appropriate time period. Thus the elements
fire, earth, air, and water; the existence of sorcery; dragons, elves,
dwarves, will o' wisps, etc. Even if he *does* mean the Qabalah, it was
common in the Middle Ages (where most MUDs are set) for Christian folk to
*believe* that Jewish mysticism consisted primarily of summoning and
controlling demons, which certainly isn't a 'good' activity in terms of
alignment. (Although this would sort of beg the question of why you would
create a form of magic use based on Judeo-Christian mythology and *not*
follow through with a full fledged Christian religion with its own temples
and priests...)

Another thought. It has been traditional for the paladin in fantasy games
to be good. The paladin also has the most stringent requirements, since he
has such a high degree of power. Are we therefore to believe that evil does
not have its own champions? That (in the AD&D alignment system we all know
and understand -- please feel free to substitute any other appropriate term
from your own system) law and chaos do not have their own champions
*independent* of the good/evil axis? Why is a paladin necessarily a
champion of good? If paladins carry such power, what is the benefit the
evil forces of the world have that allows them to resist the power of such
powerful champions of good? There have been efforts to create the
anti-paladin, but they've been less than satisfactory. What about games in
which there *is* no concept of alignment? Many MUDs in development lack
such a thing, as it's rather... unrealistic. So I propose something a
little different.

A deity, whatever his or her nature, has things he encourages and things he
discourages. An alignment might be measured along the scale not of good and
evil or law and chaos, but a scale specific to the character's chosen
deity. A paladin's powers could therefore be granted at certain levels of
favor, then removed if that level of favor is lost, and penalties could be
instituted for dropping out of favor or into negative favor. Alignment,
therefore, doesn't represent some arbitrary universal constant axis, but
simply how well you please your deity. Priests could likewise benefit from
something like this. Is anyone doing something of this nature? And is
anyone taking advantage of the new WOTC/TSR online policy? (Magic: The MUD?)

And finally... the question is often asked, can a paladin drink alcohol?
The official TSR answer for AD&D paladins has always been 'of course --
most people in the middle ages drank alcoholic beverages, because of the
plague'. To be more specific, the plague bacteria could not live in
alcoholic beverages, but it COULD be passed around in water and fruit juice
and such. Therefore, paladins would drink alcohol like everyone else, to
avoid getting the plague. But the other night, I noted a minor problem with
this rationale... 

Paladins in the AD&D world are immune to all forms of disease.

Therefore, paladins can't get the plague anyway, so they have no reason to
drink alcohol, which leaves the question... wide open. My own personal take
on it is that a man who doesn't drink is not to be trusted; in a time where
alcoholics are the beverage of choice, men who don't drink are generally
men who don't want to get drunk, and one major reason people don't want to
get drunk is to avoid the attendant lack of cognition. It would be common,
therefore, for a *spy* not to drink, because liquor might blow his cover
and/or make him susceptible to very damaging interrogation. A paladin, as a
man of honor, would not want to present such an impression. It was also
considered something of a deadly insult not to drink with a man when he
offered to share his ale or wine, leaving the paladin open to needless
challenge. (In later years, refusal to shake hands was such an insult, as
was offering the left hand to shake hands. This may partially account for
the vast statistical dichotomy between left handed and right handed
people.) So I'd conclude that not only would a paladin drink alcohol with
impunity, but the suggestion that it might be unseemly would likely puzzle

Damn, can I ramble. ;)

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