Converting Alignment

From Book of Exalted Deeds
When an evil enemy throws down his weapon and pleads for mercy, a good character faces a host of new issues, sometimes enough to make her wish the enemy had simply fought to the death. Justice demands mercy, so killing an enemy who surrenders is out of the question for a character pursuing the exalted path of good. Righteousness also encourages the virtue of prudence, and a prudent character certainly recognizes that an evil person requesting mercy is quite possibly hoping for an opportunity to kill her when her back is turned. How does a good character extract important information from a prisoner? Is there any hope of redeeming an evil enemy once he is captured? An exalted character wrestles with these and other difficult questions in such a situation.
Prisoners must be treated with a certain amount of respect. Torturing prisoners is out of the question, of course, and generally knocking prisoners unconscious again every time they wake up amounts to cruelty. That said, a certain measure of caution is reasonable. A regenerating devil who can greater teleport away with a moment’s thought can be a very difficult prisoner to keep as long as it is conscious, unless the party has access to dimensional shackles. Such a prisoner is best kept so far into nonlethal damage that it takes a week to regenerate, at least until better means to restrain it can be found.
Similarly, enemy spellcasters can be a threat even when bound and gagged, and they must be treated with vigilance— not brutality. Items like shackles of silence (described in Chapter 6) are effective in preventing spellcasters from using verbal and somatic components, but the more powerful (and much more expensive) antimagic shackles are required to ensure the caster can’t use even still, silent spells to escape or harm his captors. Aside from the moral high ground, there is one good and important reason to take prisoners rather than kill every enemy: live prisoners give better information than dead ones. (Speak with dead means that even dead men sometimes tell tales, but living creatures can give more extensive answers and the number of questions isn’t limited.) While evil characters may readily resort to torture to extract information from prisoners, good characters simply can’t, and even using the threat of torture (“Answer the question or I’ll hand you over to Brak here, who doesn’t have the same qualms I do”) is morally questionable. Fortunately for good characters, there are other ways of making prisoners talk. Charm and compulsion spells such as suggestion and charm monster can do the job admirably. An Intimidate check can also cow a prisoner into disclosing the desired information, even without the use of torture. (Torture simply provides a circumstance bonus on Intimidate checks.) This intimidation need not include threats of physical harm, since displays of holy power or strong moral exhortation can serve the same purpose. For that matter, a character with many ranks in Diplomacy can turn a hostile character friendly on a more lasting basis, extracting needed information in that manner. At the DM’s discretion, good treatment of a prisoner can grant a circumstance bonus on this Diplomacy check ranging from +2 (for the minimum standards of treatment that a good character would expect) to +6 or higher (for truly exceptional treatment).
Getting information from a prisoner is a short-term solution that often proves useful. It is possible and ultimately desirable (even though rarely practicable) not only to make an evil prisoner friendly in his attitude, but actually to change his alignment, turn him away from evil, and redeem his soul so he can be set free to commit evil no more. As discussed in Chapter 1, sword-point conversion is useless and hardly exalted; the process of actually redeeming an evil creature is long and involved.

  • First, the captors must treat the prisoner with truly exceptional care and respect—far better than the prisoner knows he would treat the characters if the situation were reversed. Initially, an evil character might greet this treatment with scorn and look for opportunities to escape. When he finds the good characters gentle but firm, kind but smart in their defenses, he gains a new degree of respect for them, gleaning at least a glimmer of an idea that one needn’t be cruel to be strong.
  • Second, the captors must display a willingness to forgive the evil that the prisoner has done. If their conversation is laced with talk of punishing their captive, or gleeful anticipation of the punishment he will receive when they turn him over to the authorities, he sees little purpose in even contemplating a change of heart, instead directing all his energies toward escaping the grim fate they have planned for him. As discussed in Chapter 1, the possibility of forgiveness is essential in demonstrating that redemption is possible.
  • Third, a good character must spend at least an hour every day with the prisoner, encouraging him to talk about the evil he has done, and in turn describing the benefits and rewards of the life of good. This task is best performed by a cleric who can speak with authority not only about mortal forgiveness, but also divine mercy. Often it is important for a villain to know that the deities of good will welcome him as a worshiper. Each day this conversation takes place, even if it begins rather one-sided, the good character makes a Diplomacy check. The evil character then makes a special Will save, adding his level as a bonus on the saving throw, against a DC equal to the good character’s Diplomacy check result. The DM can give the same circumstance bonus on the Diplomacy check as for checks made to interrogate prisoners. Creatures whose alignments are listed as “always” a specific alignment, and characters who would lose class abilities if they changed alignment (including evil clerics and blackguards), gain a +4 bonus on their Will saves. Outsiders with the Evil subtype are immune to redemption in this manner. Neutral (neither good nor evil) characters take a –2 penalty on their Will saves. Creatures who have been enthralled by an emissary of Barachiel (see Chapter 5) or who have been subject to the vision of heaven spell (see Chapter 6) take penalties on their Will saves.

If an evil character fails seven saving throws in a row at any point during the process of redemption, the evil component of his alignment changes to neutral. If a neutral character (including a formerly evil character who has already failed seven saves) fails seven saving throws in a row, his alignment changes to good. The change is permanent.
Redeemed villains have no special link to the good characters who facilitated their redemption. They might choose to continue associating with the PCs, or they might strike out on their own, as the DM decides. However, they are always friendly to the characters, and feel that they owe a debt of gratitude to them, which the PCs can collect sooner or later.