Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Orcs are Here! Quick, Somebody Call the . . . Guys?



Call me old fashioned but I miss the days when there were good guys and bad guys in our games. Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to launch into one of those foolish diatribes where I complain about all the young kids not understanding what it means to walk up a hill, in the snow, in fucking July, just to tell your teacher to fuck off for the summer.

What I'm complaining about is the way that so many of us are playing today where our players scribble evil or neutral in their alignment columns and then play the most lackluster and vanilla characters to ever be rolled up. I hear it in the live play podcasts and read it in the write-ups that appear on blogs and forums throughout this hobby. We're not being bold in how we play.

Look, if you want to play evil that's fucking great with me. Hell, I'll roll up a character and run right alongside you. But don't put the alignment down if the worst thing you're going to do is kill some poor corn gobbler on his way to church so that you can loot his body. Fuck, I can do that with Lawful Good and rock that shit so hard that the Dungeon Master will give me bonus experience points for playing my alignment to the hilt. 

If you're going to be evil, then fucking be evil! Sacrifice babies, offer virgins to dark gods - and for the love of god - lie, cheat, and steal your way throughout the game world! Be a fucking villain that will get under your Dungeon Master's skin and have him trying his damnedest to stop you with posses and the very wrath of the gods if you go long enough!

The problem doesn't end with evil though. Just look at our good guys who traipse about games trying their damnedest to do what the bad guys are doing only they'd like to get away with it. 

Why?

Why not be bold and try to be Ivanhoe? Why not try to be great like the Knights of the Round - who killed the shit out of everyone but had an honor system that made them something worth envying? Why not be something heroic that makes the game more than a bunch of jackasses wandering about the dungeon telling terrible renditions of Monty Python jokes?

Look I've listened and read so many accounts of these games and I can see that so many people are just muddling their way through because they either don't know how, or are afraid, to be bold in their alignment of choice. I'm telling you that if you want to play Chaotic Good get out there and be everything that choice means to you. Give away the Paladin's horse to the farmer who just lost his. Slaughter the Druid's pig companion to feed the village. Don't be a timid little thing that plays Chaotic Good the same way you played Lawful Evil and True Neutral!

When you pick your alignment and write those two words down on your sheet make them meaningful for you so that you're not just another forgettable character. Be bold and make that choice matter.

25 comments:

  1. Speaking only for myself, of course:

    You're preaching to the choir, brother! If you're going to do it, then do it!

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    1. Absolutely!

      On Google+ I had this comment that alignment was nothing more than something the DM changed because he wanted to punish you and all I could think was, "He changes it because you're not playing what you wrote down."

      I don't understand why when people write down an alignment they don't play it. It's your choice when you write it down. You've already made the commitment to play your character a certain way in your head so why are you then bitching about writing it down and using it to remind yourself how you want this guy to be?

      People are strange.

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  2. I totally agree with your rumble.

    In addition to not knowing how to play the alignment chosen, I have noticed that In the last few years more and more players tend to take a neutral alignment, but only because they do not know how to choose the one that best reflects their PCs and then when they interpret often result in a completely different way than pure neutral.

    I've always said to the players: do not look at the alignment as a straitjacket, but rather as a kind of code of conduct for your character. Put down a list of things that have value and which is invaluable to your character and based on that decide what may be the most likely alignment.

    But in the long run I noticed that many players consider the alignment as a trinket to be taken into account only in the game mechanics (spells, magic items, etc..) and then also I have adapted... am I wrong?

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    1. No, you're not.

      But the choice of alignment isn't a straightjacket. They are freely choosing what to write down so they should pick the one that fits with how they want to play. Otherwise, why worry with it at all?

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    2. Exactly what I have always supported. :)

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  3. Oh yeah testify. If someone wants to play a badass they should play a badass not just a selfish thieving murdering arsonist. A good guy can be an awesome badass because he actually has right and justice on his side.

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  4. I kill people on a regular basis, feed the hungry, invade other peoples' countries, heal the sick, destroy ancient temples, give alms to the poor, and throw sacrifices into the Flame.

    Dave Arneson described me as "Lawful Good", and Gary Gygax described me as "the perfect paladin".

    Go figure.

    - chirine

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    1. I couldn't imagine arguing with either of their assessments as that's where I would have put you after reading that first paragraph as well. Not that I'm telling you anything you don't already know, but Lawful Good doesn't mean virginal moron unwilling to do anything that might sully his pristine tunic. It means Knights of the Round - you know, the guys who killed on a regular basis, feed the hungry, invaded countries, healed the sick, destroyed evil, and gave arms to the poor (and if they hadn't been Christian they would have sacrificed people to their gods too).

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  5. You point out quite eloquently in this article...

    Why I hate alignment.
    Why most players wouldn't know a hero from a villain with a scorecard.
    Why D&D works and doesn't (for me). It isn't about good and evil. It's loot the bodies, steal their stuff.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go run Supers.

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    1. Fair enough. I'm going to go read about it!

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  6. I've always looked at Alignment as a two-part guideline for how your character acts. I detailed this a while back in my own attempt at a retroclone. I may blog about that today.

    But the main point is, the Alignment you choose is there to help you as a player have your character act in a consistent manner, based on how you created him. Much like a writer will determine how a character will act in a book. But you're right. A lot of people write "Lawful Evil" on their page without any clue as to what that entails. They probably saw it on one of those memes, and thought that they wanted to model their character after a particular character, so they took the aliggnment that the meme said that character had.

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    1. "the Alignment you choose is there to help you as a player have your character act in a consistent manner, based on how you created him. Much like a writer will determine how a character will act in a book."

      I could not have said it better myself!

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  7. Gary said he saw D&D as LG parties pushing back savagery and building civilization.
    My friend Lew Pulsipher said he plays D&D to be a hero.
    Keep repeating it - be good or be evil but don't be mealy-mouthed.
    http://darthsanddroids.net/episodes/0610.html

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    1. Okay, now I've been reading that website for the last hour. Where has this been all my life!

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    2. Ahahahah! Very nice Darths and Droids. Thanks +Rick Stump.

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  8. It's interesting that many gamers railed against themore linear 4e treatment of alignment, but from a player's perspective, that how many players already played. I submit this revision:

    Choatic FREAKING Evil --- Milquetoast Evil -- Unaligned -- Air Quotes "Good" -- Lawful "I will crucify the unbelievers" Good.

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    1. I've never played Lawful "I will crucify the unbelievers" Good but I think I really, really want to! Marty, you should run an adventure where I can play it and bring order to the heathen bastards!

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    2. :) Yeah, my players tend to stick to Air Quotes "Good". It would be fun to have a truly "righteous" player stick to the actual tenets of their diety.

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    3. I can't promise that I won't go there too, but I can promise you that letting me lose in your game world will be an experience you won't likely forget! ;)

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  9. My current PC started out as "Neutral Evil" (this was 4e so on my sheet it was simply "Evil") and I had to tone it way down 'cause the GM kept undermining my efforts, and started punishing me for playing my alignment.

    --Dither

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    1. Bastard!

      Have you decided how you're going to punish him?

      Delete
    2. My MO was to roleplay my henchmen and hirelings as my "PC," allowing my "real character" to pose as a bodyguard to a series of characters with remarkably low hit points (we're playing 4e after all) -- and sneak away from the rest of the party without raising anyone's suspicion.

      My aim was to play an Evil Spymaster sort of character, pulling the strings from the shadows and whatnot. I even managed to contact and sell information to the campaign villain. I'd give the GM an overview of my plans via email, and pass him notes at the table whenever I was doing something shifty.

      To "punish" the GM, I've started slowly outing my character's schemes at the table. That might not sound so bad except that I've stopped informing him of my plans ahead of time, and started bringing the other PCs/players in. So yeah, my punishment has been cooperating more with the rest of the group. <_<

      Oh! And they still don't know who my "real PC" is. So after the group helps me to overthrow the leader of Gloomwrought and install my puppet PC, I can finally throw back my hood and laugh maniacally.

      OR WILL I? *music sting*

      --Dither

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    3. We have got to play D&D together. I feel like only terrible things and glorious fun will result. I want both.

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    4. That does sound like fun.

      I've spent so much time dodging douchebags and showing the ropes to new players that I can't remember the last time I played for fun.

      --Dither

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