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Playing With / Grey and Gray Morality

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Basic Trope: Characters in conflict with each other are neither good nor evil.

  • Straight: Alice, the protagonist, is in conflict with Bob, an antagonist, but both characters are neither good nor evil.
  • Exaggerated:
  • Downplayed:
  • Justified:
    • The world has no built in moral system. Good and Evil are what you make of it.
    • The plot is just a Slice of Life; there is conflict and people have varying levels of principles, but there aren't any heroes or villains, just ordinary people with ordinary morals.
    • Alice and Bob both believe that morality is just a concept that holds everyone else back. Alice discards morality because it gets in the way of true justice. Bob disregards morality because it gets in the way of his goals.
    • Alice is Lawful Neutral while Bob is Chaotic Neutral.
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted:
    • Alice and Bob are honourable soldiers who love their respective countries, which are at war for reason they don't understand. It turns out that Alice's country is deeply committed to the well-being of all its citizens and Bob's country is deeply committed to racial purity, slaughtering millions of its own people in giant death camps.
    • The conflict becomes either White and Grey Morality or Black and Gray Morality.
  • Double Subverted: Alice's country slaughters similar numbers of its own people over ideological purity. But it's not Evil vs. Evil because Alice and Bob are still honorable soldiers, fighting for countries they love despite evil governments. (Real Life wasn't this simple — this is a fictional example).
  • Parodied: Alice and Bob are fighting over the last piece of cupcake.
  • Advertisement:
  • Zig Zagged: Motive Decay means that, at different times, Alice and Bob fight over different things - sometimes Grey and Gray, sometimes Black and White.
  • Averted:
  • Enforced: The author grew tired of good versus evil battles, so he wants to throw in a conflict where morality is subjective.
  • Lampshaded:
    Alice: "Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys?"
    Bob: "They left the scenario a long time ago... Now, there's only us."
  • Invoked: Charlie hates objective morality and wants to convince the world that morality is subjective by making his own moral philosophy.
  • Exploited: A Manipulative Bastard claims that all morality is relative, so he's free to Kick the Dog whenever he feels like it, and if anyone tries to confront him, he claims that it is only wrong from their perspective.
  • Defied:
    • The heroes clearly draw moral lines that they vow never to cross while the villains try to close off any trace of goodness in their minds.
    • "You guys need to wake up! Right and wrong aren't determined by mankind."
  • Discussed: "I think it's better for the world to be this way than being forced to pick a side."
  • Conversed: "I know that they're trying to pretend that their world runs on Black and White Morality, but I keep seeing the protagonists commit immoral acts while I never see any proof that The Empire is as oppressive as the narrator claims."
  • Deconstructed:
    • People in-universe begin believing that the world runs on shifty grey morality. Consistent moral perspective breaks down, leading to highly destructive thinking like "What Is Evil?", "It's only evil if someone else does it" and "I'm only the bad guy if I lose in the end". The world consequently develops into a Crapsack World.
    • Good and bad are a sliding scale rather than stark absolutes, that is true, but the baselines for what can be considered bad should not be set to the worst possible atrocity by default!
    • Grey And Gray Insanity: Everyone believes that everyone, no matter what is no better than each other in moral perspectives, no matter how deranged these may be.
  • Reconstructed: Alice and Bob learned to analyze the consequences of their opposing moral perspectives and come to the conclusion that while people will not agree with each other's philosophy, they can agree that the black and white morality will appear if they go overboard with them.

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