Comments really are the sweet spot on a blog, aren’t they?Â I get such great ideas from someone bouncing off a post I’ve written and before you know it, you have a chain reaction of kinetic ideas.Â The hardest thing is ALWAYS remembering all of the great “You know, I should write about that” topics.Â Because I am, on occasion, as wise as I am intelligent, I started keeping a pen and paper (a WORKING pen and something NOT a bill envelope) next to the computer.Â It has paid off.Â
Alignment is a wonderful discussion topic for any gamer or gaming group.Â Roleplaying — the process of bringing characters to life and giving them “experiences” — presents very unique challenges not found in otherÂ entertainment pursuits.Â When you watch a movie, you aren’t concerned about religion or ethics any more than what is presented to you.Â In rping, the script is written by you, for characters that must have some reading on a moral compass.Â I don’t believe you could dissect a character from their ethics.Â Our entire formative years are based in categorical classification:Â light, dark; soft, hard; right, wrong.Â No matter what you do, we’re going to analyze and try and fit ourselves in on a spectrum.Â And I’ve yet to see a player create a character that didn’t have any moral center.Â It’s just something we feel we automatically must have.Â Which is scary.Â Because the other thing that we swear we have to have but can’t lay hands on is our soul.Â Another debate topic entirely.Â *smile*Â Do characters have souls?Â Hrm…
In rping, we encounter new and vastly different worlds where the ethical footprint doesn’t resemble the tracks we leave in our real lives.Â This is part of the excitement with rping… to take a foray into something different, do things we might never do (or that we would do given the opportunity but are either afraid to admit or don’t like to admit).Â And despite the stickiness of the discussions that alignments and ethics entail, an ethical stance with a character is one of the EASIEST risks we can take.Â Playing the opposite sex is actually one of the hardest things you can do because you have no frame of reference for that experience.Â But being self-serving, greedy, heartless, cruel, nasty, angry, vengeful… oh, we’ve all felt those.Â Those emotions and thoughts aren’t reserved for one sex or the other.Â It truly is one of the easier paths for experimentation in the gaming world.
All the traits I listed above — self-serving, greedy, etc. — are those really, truly EVIL, though?Â Stop yourself before you answer that question and ask whether or not those are selfish traits or is the classification of them as EVIL something handed down through a religious or social institution in THIS world.Â As background in THIS world, modern Satanism would count all of those traits as “of the flesh” and not evil at all, but rather self-preserving, making the most of Prometheus’ gift to mankind.Â On the other hand, these things are eschewed by modern dominant religion, seen as being “of the Devil”, and thus here you go.Â Things that serve the flesh and the body and the self are inherently evil.Â That’s the dogma and diatribe of THIS world.
But in rping, we’re playing in a new world, one with different cultures and mores.Â Granted, we often take the strictures of this world and apply it to that one as a basis for the ethical ebb and flow of a game.Â No one wants to reinvent the wheel, and truth be told, how many players can play such a paradigm shift off the cuff?Â Not many.Â However, redistributing the traits along the axis of good and evil is one of the best ways to make a normal-to-the-eye world seem alien, indeed.Â What if sexual conduct was considered public and private sexual displays were considered heathen?Â What if one must kill the parent of the same sex when one reached a certain age as part of population control?Â These are wild extremes, however, we have just altered the entire fabric of the world and the realities of those coming into that world by changing the moral axis on which that world spins.Â
I think it’s important for a GM or a writer to define the boundaries of the world for the players, many times before the players make their characters.Â If Good shines a light into the darkness, then there are depths of shadow to be explored.Â However, I might also make this statement.Â A light in the darkness is still a light, and unless that light goes out entirely, there is no place in total darkness.Â Translation:Â as long as you have Good in your world, nothing will be ENTIRELY Evil… you will only have deepening shades of it.Â Something is always, ALWAYS worse.Â A fact that your players should be kept aware of.Â A fact that YOU should be prepared to elucidate for the player who thinks they are the epitome of Evil.
So, I think that’s enough to chew on for now regarding Evil, what it is and isn’t, and the importance of defining in your game.Â I’ll be continuing this run by tackling the topic of evil from various perspectives:Â as a rper playing an Evil character; as a rper who has someone running an Evil character in their group and has to interact with that character; as a GM dealing with an Evil character; and the prospects of running an entire campaign of compromised characters.Â There are challenges and rewards to be found in all these potential situations, and we all can relate.
As I said… villians, aren’t we all?