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D&D is strongly rooted in the duality of Dark/Light (and the tones black/white) as an equivalent for Evil/Good. This is tiring for a number of reasons both as a GM and as a player. While examples of this trope are scattered throughout the 3 rulebooks of D&D 5e, I have not found any D&D source material that explains how darkness came to be an attribute of evil, and how light came to be an attribute of good. Outside of icy terrains (i.e. white dragons, yetis, etc.) evil Is overwhelmingly associated with darkness and the color black, and good is overwhelmingly associated with light and white.

This is my question:

Is there any published D&D lore that established, within the D&D multiverse, the connection between dark and evil, and between light and good? If so, which D&D book(s) contain this lore?

To clarify, I would like to know if there is any D&D lore that establishes, in the D&D universe, the strong inclination for evil beings to be associated with darkness, and good beings to be associated with light. I am not interested in cultural, social, political, historical influences from the real world. I am also not at all interested in the intent of the game dessigners. This question is about lore, mythology, arcana, etc. written in D&D published material.

Here are some initial references from the PHB which show evil equated with darkness. More references to come from DMG and MM as well as references equating light with good (it's a long list). To be clear these references all equate evil or related attributes such as hideousness and treachery with the quality of darkness. These do not use the term "dark" as a replacement for the word "evil" which is a semantic decision and not in the scope of this question.

PHB:

  • (6) The halflings of the Dark Sun setting, for example, are jungle-dwelling cannibals.
  • (20) ... live the duergar, or gray dwarves. These vicious, stealthy slave traders raid the surface world for captives, then sell their prey to the other races of the Underdark.
  • (25) dark elves, who are commonly called drow ... their exile into the Underdark has made them vicious and dangerous. Drow are more often evil than not.
  • (26) Dark Elf (Drow) Descended from an earlier subrace of dark-skinned elves, the drow were banished from the surface world for following the goddess Lolth down the path to evil and corruption.
  • (26) Also called dark elves, the drow have black skin that resembles polished obsidian
  • (81) the order of the Dark Moon is made up of monks dedicated to Shar (goddess of loss)
  • (82) he jabs again and again at a twisted giant, until at last his light overcomes its hideous darkness.
  • (82) to stand with the good things of the world against the encroaching darkness, and to hunt the forces of evil wherever they lurk.
  • (86) paladins who swear this oath cast their lot with the side of the light in the cosmic struggle against darkness because they love the beautiful and life-giving things of the world
  • (251) a gateway to the dark between the stars, a region infested with unknown horrors
  • (293) evil cults perform dark sacrifices in subterranean lairs
  • (293) Various mad cults are devoted to the demons and horrors imprisoned in Eberron's Underdark
  • (294) Shar, goddess of darkness and loss
  • (300) Its dark reflection is the Negative Plane, the source of necrotic energy that destroys the living and animates the undead.

DMG:

  • (9) The populace lives in perpetual terror of these darklords and their evil minions
  • (10) Zehir, god of darkness and poison
  • (38) you'll find a dark, gritty world of evil sorcerers and decadent cities
  • (40) Necromancers toil in dark dungeons to create horrid servants made of dead flesh
  • (44) Tartarus, where the titans are imprisoned in endless darkness, lies below Hades
  • (44) It has dark, evil regions (homes of fiends and evil gods)
  • (49) The darker regions of the plane are home to such malevolent creatures
  • (50) It is a place of darkness that hates the light
  • (50) A forest on the Shadowfell is dark and twisted, its branches reaching out to snare travelers' cloaks
  • (52) The city of Neverwinter in the world of the Forgotten Realms has a dark reflection on the Shadowfell: the city of Evernight. Evernight is a city of cracked stone edifices and homes of rotten wood.
  • (56) ... are called the Darkened Depths. Horrid creatures dwell here ...
  • (64) a fortress city cast of obsidian and dark glass. With rivers of molten lava pouring down its outer walls, the city resembles the sculpted centerpiece of a gigantic, hellish fountain
  • (66) Nessus is a realm of dark pits whose walls are set with fortresses. There, pit fiend generals loyal to Asmodeus garrison their diabolical legions and plot the conquest of the multiverse.
  • (97) ... or serve an evil power. Whatever light burned in the paladin's heart has been extinguished. Only darkness remains.
  • (222) ... where its moral guidance can bring light to a darkened world ...
  • (223) … a foul language known as Dark Speech
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closed as unclear what you're asking by Miniman, YogoZuno, lithas, MikeQ, Rubiksmoose Feb 7 at 16:58

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 7 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @miniman I edited the post. If there are still concerns with this question can you please let me know what they are? Thanks \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 8 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given the arguments in edits and comments across both the question and its answers, and the duelling votes, reopen votes, and delete votes, reopening this will only lead to escalation rather than resolution. This sort of turbulence can’t be resolved with the available tools on Main; it has been locked to avoid escalating strife here. To determine whether and how this may be or become a question that is suitable to the site and not incite argument upon reopening, anyone is welcome to open a discussion on Role-playing Games Meta about how/whether to proceed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 8 at 3:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve lifted the lock and left the hold on so the post can be worked on. Meta question here: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8794/321 \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 8 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie and others, I posted a response to the meta question. If that response does not address what I can do to make my question suitable for RPG SE please let me know what else I can do. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 10 at 6:42
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To be quite frank, the association of black with evil and white with good is a feature typical to the vast majority of not only fantasy media like Dungeons and Dragons, but culture in general. The notion of black-and-white dualism dates so far back that it is a prominent feature of Zoroastrianism from Ancient Persia over 6000 years ago. As far as I know there is no specific lore laying out why dark is evil and light is good, because it is such a typical feature of fantasy media and culture that it is simply assumed to be true.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm asking specifically about D&D lore. D&D is separate from culture in the real world. Of course there are influences from the real world, but this question is not about that. Dragons, for example, are present in cultures spanning the real world, however the designers of D&D have still taken it upon themselves to establish Dragon lore within the D&D universe that is separate and different than myths from around the real world. I want to know where to find the lore within the D&D universe that establishes the duality of dark/light as evil/good. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 7 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lightcat If it's fundamental to almost every human culture, then the authors probably included it in D&D without ever considering it. There won't be any lore explaining it for the same reasons there aren't any rules saying you can't take actions while dead: it's such a fundamentally basic concept that it never occurred to the writers to actually spell it out. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Feb 7 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Not taking action while dead is a logical fact of nature. Equating evil/good with dark/light is a construct of culture, and there are many cultural creations that subvert this relationship. Irregardless, this question is not about culture, it's about D&D. Are you assuming it was the authors intent to use dark/light as a universally accepted notion or do you have evidence that this is their intent? If you have no evidence, or are not a designer yourself I'd like to avoid that topic as questions about designer intent are specifically not allowed on this site. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 7 at 2:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben The second answer to this question illustrates that your edit to this answer makes it more incorrect than it already was. The question is initially a statement of personal knowledge, "As far as I know..." Your edit has made it a statement of fact, which is clearly not accurate if you peruse the second answer. Just wanted to let you know why I'm rolling back the edit \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 7 at 17:35
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As the first answer states, the connection between good and light, and evil and dark, are so integrated into human culture that it's completely irrelevant to try and identify where it was first integrated. The sun is warm, grows crops, and we can see easily. The night is cold, dominated by dangerous nocturnal hunters, and it's much harder to see. The first and second editions of DND used real world religions like egyptian, so non-fantasy gods like Ra were the first example of a light-based good god.

From a purely-5e forgotten-realms lore, it dates back to the conflict between Selune and Shar, the two earliest gods, representing darkness and light. Chauntea, goddess of life, asked for fire to warm the world. Selune wanted to increase the amount of life in the world, Shar wanted to limit it. Ever since then, Shar the dark goddess has represented the desire to quell and dominate life, and Selune the goddess of light has represented the desire to spread and preserve life. The connection between shar and undeath continued to grow as she fused the undead negative plane with the shadow plane to create the shadowfell as part of the big Spellplague hullabaloo.

The names change, but the lore generally stays the same, and generally reflects real life mythologies. The sun god/goddess wants to spread life, the dark god/goddess wants to limit or end life. Pelor and Nerull are the same way in 3e and 4e.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @milesbedinger this is along the lines of what I'm looking for. Are you able to provide book citations or links for any of these? I would like to investigate further. \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 7 at 9:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of it comes from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting and the Forgotten realms campaign guide. If you want to check out the wiki, you can just google selune or shar. The forgotten realms wiki pages have plenty of citations and reference material. \$\endgroup\$ – Miles Bedinger Feb 7 at 9:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about the extent to which light=good/dark=bad is true in real-world cultures has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 7 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @milesbedinger Could you include this link from Fandom.com : forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Shar - Your answer is exactly the type of material I'm looking for and the tale at the link includes many citations and references of specific D&D publications which would be useful to any future answer seeker. I'm going to wait to accept your answer until I see what else shows up. Nice arcana roll! +1 :-) \$\endgroup\$ – lightcat Feb 7 at 16:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ (See the question regarding the lock.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 8 at 3:58

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