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I'll try to keep this short.

The Party of Five leaves The Tavern, following Quest NPC. Suddenly, they are jumped by three bugbears, which seem to have a beef with the Quest NPC. Quest NPC teleports away.

Bugbears attack The Party, which turns out to be a bad idea. Two are put down, the third runs.

As he flees, the Chaotic Good party member attacks him at range, with the intent of killing him. He justifies this with the belief that the bugbear was a threat to the innocent persons of the city.

Are CG's actions justified, or should he be shifted to Chaotic Neutral?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Miniman, Joshua Aslan Smith, doppelgreener, BESW, Purple Monkey Feb 6 '15 at 13:33

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking for opinions on what is and is not proper for alignment is a primarily opinion based question and outside our site's scope. VTC. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Feb 6 '15 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally 5e has no real rules on alignment, just guidelines and general DM advice. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Feb 6 '15 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChemicalRascal the scope is restricted to the point where answers can have either objectively correct answers, or solidly correct answers based on good subjective guidelines. Matters of opinion are right out. This means some types of questions get excluded, and alignment discussion is a major casualty. We are not at a loss for it; there's other places on the internet like forums or chat rooms for dealing with those questions. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 6 '15 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nagora As a rule of thumb, when you feel like insulting the entire community: stop, take a short walk, then consider whether you can take it to meta by extracting a constructive policy-discussion prompt from your point of frustration. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 6 '15 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here is a meta question to use to hash this out. meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5357/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 6 '15 at 19:23
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It was an act of good by D&D standards

D&D has a very black and white approach to morality. Killing an evil creature is an act of good because there is one less evil creature in the world. Had the bugbear surrendered and then been killed, it would then be a case of lawful vs chaotic as well (and is a good starting place to get the players to think about the other axis of their alignment)

It does of course depends on how tightly you play by the alignment rules. If you were running a game in which morals played a large part, it could of course be considered an evil act. After all, are you any better than the thug you just killed? What about the family he was trying to feed? But if you are playing that sort of game, the players need to be told up front that you are deviating from the norm.

Though there is another point work making: One action does not an alignment shift cause. Performing an act of evil is just that, a single action. While there are actions that are large enough to justify an alignment shift, generally speaking it is the sum of the characters actions that determine their alignment overall.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for entire answer, however, @chemical Rascal, if u only take one thing from this answer the last paragraph is gold \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 6 '15 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ That D&D has a black & white morality is an interpretation of the game text, and not the only and absolute interpretation—that's why alignment questions like this are impossible to answer without opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 6 '15 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Without getting into the whole "anonymous votes are integral to the system" "talk" can i ask why this has so many down votes? I know this question is [on hold] but, imo, this answer does a good job of answering the question & addressing a root of issue of changing alignment \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 7 '15 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin Often the reason is simply that answering off-topic questions at all is deemed not useful (or, actively harmful), and that's what the tooltip on the downvote arrow says to use it for. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 7 '15 at 5:49
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"Should my good character kill this evil monster?" is one of the questions that ends up coming a lot. In general, this kind of thing is perfectly acceptable, if only because the game expects it from you.

However, if you are more interested in the whole "how does alignment work" debate, I would suggest trying to see if one of your friends has a copy of the Book of Exalted Deeds, for DnD 3.5 you can borrow.

While the rules are pretty much useless for you because they aren't compatible with DnD 5e, it has very large sections of discussion on how to handle "paragons of good", as in heroes who don't kill fleeing bugbears or enemies who surrender.

If you are interested in a campaign with true good, where instead of killing the tribe of goblins your PCs attempt to redeem them and make them see the error of their ways, the Book of Exalted Deeds has a lot of examples on how such a redemption could be achieved.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think BoED takes good to the extreme end not typical of your avg adventurer. Good for people who want to aspire to the very best of ideals but very little else. IMHO \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Feb 6 '15 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hence why I said paragon of good. For your average campaign, it obviously isn't all that useful, but considering the asker seems to think killing a fleeing enemy is an act of evil, he may very well be looking for a "paragon of good" feel. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Feb 6 '15 at 19:40
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Good actively tracks down and destroys Evil. Not doing so is a neutral act at best. Killing Evil is, in D&D terms, like killing smallpox.

In other words: the PC did the right thing by their alignment.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not too sure that smallpox has an alignment though... \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 7 '15 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ No... but D&D is tremendously tribalist in some ways... and from the perspective of his tribe, that bugbear is a source of death, nothing more. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Apr 18 '17 at 18:10

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