The Orc Baby Dilemma

The Orc Baby Dilemma (more generally called the "baby monster dilemma") is a question used to challenge the alignment of Paladins (especially to distinguish the Lawful Good from the Lawful Stupid). It sometimes refers to a contrived situation concocted by That DM to force a Paladin to fall.

The dilemma is usually presented thus: during a raid on an Orc encampment (or some place of residence of evil creatures), the players come across an orc child. They are forced to make a choice of:

  1. Sparing the child, risking him or her growing up into an evil creature, or
  2. Killing the child, which is frowned upon because the child isn't evil yet, or might never be.

A poor DM can use any choice to shoehorn the paladin into falling, while a good party can make a choice that isn't a false dichotomy and has a fair chance of leading to a good outcome (or at least an interesting one).

Marvel Comics used this dilemma in the origin story of one of their oldest villains, the trickster-god Loki. Allfather Odin (a Lawful-Good superhero version of the Norse god from the Edda) is fighting a war with ice giants and finds an ice-giant baby in the wreckage of a cottage. This comic-book Odin chooses option #1 above, raising the child as his own son and step-brother to Thor. Loki grows up to be a peer to his brother and other gods of Asgard, a nasty schemer and a colossal dick to the superheroes of Earth, destined to be the cause of the Asgardian doomsday event. Bad news for Odin's adventuring party, but great story hooks for Odin's player.

Of note is sometimes a Paladin can be serving a god that doesn't care too much about that baby orc being a baby. It's an orc, is therefore unclean, and is to be terminated with extreme prejudice.

See AlsoEdit