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"…and you camped there in the cold, A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;"

(from) The Shooting of Dan McGrew R. W. Service

Basic Information

Greed (also known as avarice) is the desire to accumulate as much wealth or as many material comforts as possible. It is one of the Seven Deadly Sins of Catholicism.

Whilst it is not necessarily a sin to be wealthy, or comfortable, or to seek to acquire either (despite some suggestions to the contrary), like so many sins it is in the degree and dominance of the desire that the sin lies. Properly understood, any material possession is a transitory gift from God and should be used accordingly - seeking what God does not chose to grant places ones feet very firmly on the wrong road. There is a certain fellowship between Greed, Lust and Gluttony, all being sins of sensuality and indulgence. Unlike Gluttony and Lust, however, Greed does not necessarily seek to consume, but merely possess - hoarding is also greed based and the wealthy but tight-fisted miser an archetype of a person ruled by greed. Greed that takes pride in having what others do not have - rather than just in having MORE - may also be viewed as an evil twin to envy.

Greed is a sin in that it elevates a desire for the material, thus distracting from the spiritual and from mankind's heritage of eternal life. In extremis greed becomes a form of idolatry where wealth takes over the desire and devotion in the sinner's life which correctly belong to The Lord, establishing it as a false god. Greed can also lead to the commission of other sins in the search to acquire wealth. It is, arguably, one of the sins that is deadly because it is easy to fall into and appears victimless, but can be very absorbing.

Emblematically greed is associated with the colour yellow (possibly by way of gold), and (for some reason) with the frog or toad, although the ape (whose hands are, proverbially, never satisfied) would seem more Biblical. It is also one of the sins traditionally exemplified by dragons - this and covetousness explaining their desire to acquire and hoard valuable items.

See Also


Game and Story Use

  • This is one of the most common motivation for the player characters, especially since it gives them a reason to go on dangerous quests (to acquire loot) and allows them to improve their characters (better equipment). It requires effort by both the player and the game master to make a character work in the campaign who isn't motivated by greed!
  • It can also be a character weakness, or a flaw or hindrance. Greed might make a character easier to manipulate, or lead a trusted character to betray the PCs. It's a deadly sin for a reason.
  • Greed need not necessarily be purely financial - a greed for knowledge or power can also drag a soul down … from the Christian point of view most, if not all, magic involves a desire for more than the Lord choses to give and might so invoke the sin of greed.
  • Trials of greed are fairly easy to construct, setting the character up in a position where they can easily compromise their principles to obtain more … ideally at the expense of someone else. Greedy characters are also more likely to be tempted into petty theft or to pick up valuable objects used to bait traps.
  • The greedy are also far more likely to submit to bribery - and their price might not necessarily be greater than that of an honest man.
  • As noted, the miser is an archetype of greed - and may actually be more closely ruled by this sin than a man who lives far more richly, even if the latter is far more interested in acquiring money … easy come, easy go is not exactly greed's motto.
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