Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gaah! Evil!

Maliszewski wrote that he doesn't generally reference other blogs as "we already pretty much read the same ones anyway."  That could be, but I for one, am a little new to the blogging game (I have made it to July...yay!) and could certainly stand some references.  

For example, I came across this, written in 2006 that might have saved me a lot of ranting posts had I read it first (things don't ALWAYS have to be re-stated).

And yet, here I go again.  I was already considering the composition on "evil D&D I have known" when I saw this, and this, oh...and this, too.  Probably as I write this, someone is posting something similar. Seems like people have "evil" on the brain these days (or I just don't have an original thought in my brain).

I can remember when I first played D&D, I simply equated Chaotic with "Evil." Later on, when I got my hands on AD&D and I wondered how I possibly could have been so deluded?  Obviously, being Chaotic simply meant "loving freedom" and being Lawful meant "being a stickler for rules;" neither necessitated a good or evil bent.

Prior to AD&D most every PC was Neutral in alignment (the few that were not were Lawful). Not that we were enforcing alignment strongly (no "bolts from the blue" or XP penalties for poor alignment play).  Players simply picked alignments that they felt generally described their attitude (when you're a kid, you're not interested in "playing in character;" you ARE the character, for the most part.  Except now you have a sword or can cast spells).  I think that kids, without pre-conceived notions of play, still realize "hmmm...I'm killing things and robbing gold; they may be evil, but I'm not particularly good."  At least, I'd like to think that this knowledge of right and wrong is inherent in kids.

Once we started playing AD&D, just about every PC was Chaotic in alignment...generally Chaotic Good or Chaotic Neutral, though there were at least a couple Chaotic Evil.  A lot of alignments were chosen based on what was allowed by a particular deity, as per DDG (for example, one fighter was Chaotic Evil mainly so as to be in synch with her patron Ares; it was rare that she had the opportunity or inclination to commit "acts of evil" or depravity).

Though there WERE acts of depravity.  Ripping someone's arm off and beating them to death with it? Check. Slapping a servant girl with gauntlets of ogre power and breaking her neck? Check. Sacrifice and enslavement of humans including children? Check.  Random castration and maiming for vengeance or the sheer "humor" of it? Check on both.  Blood sacrifice of fellow PCs to power artifacts? You better believe it.

These are all examples from memory that don't include the wanton slaying and looting that is a large part of any D&D campaign.  Even aside from the philosophical question of whether or not "dungeon delving" is morally repugnant, the players needed no additional impetus to commit acts of mayhem...this was not one or two snarky players, this was pretty much ALL of us at one time or another. And the DMs were even worse with both PCs and NPCs (throw rape, torture, and assorted destruction and disenfranchisement into the mix).

Part of this comes with teenagers and pre-teens simply "pushing boundaries" of what is or is not acceptable (without parental supervision to our games, pretty much nothing was off the table).  In many ways, this was our gamist tendencies ramped up a notch: "Can you take the heat? Are you going to step on up?"  The ones that couldn't often ended up the ones that took the abuse.  I believe I mentioned earlier that players never used paladins in our games...I don't think one would have lasted long if introduced.

Even the player whose main character was a Lawful Good cleric of Athena, also had the following "side characters:" a human assassin named Shadowspawn (after the Aspirin Thieves World character), a female drow fighter-cleric (evil), and a Chaotic Evil insane healer (some class pulled from a Dragon magazine if I remember correctly)...this latter, Father Cornelius didn't last long before the other party members emasculated him (literally) and put him to the sword.  And this was the guy who was supposed to act as the party medic!

At some point all of us wanted to experiment with what was possible in a game "only limited by the imagination."  Certainly, these things were nothing one could do in real life without going to jail (or getting lynched), and as far as I know none of us ended up in jail and we're all (relatively) productive members of society today.  It's strange how, as I've grown older, I find myself much less enamored with the sadistic potentials in role-playing, though whether that's because I've "grown up," look for something different, or have been influenced by society...well, who can say?

As far as the monsters and antagonists present in D&D, I really don't see "evil" only "opponents."  Whether someone is taking on a red dragon or a gold dragon, who cares what the alignment is...they're both sitting on a pile of treasure.  Lolth may be "chaotic evil" but what has she ever done to me that I'd seek to invade her plane (which a past character of mine did in Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits).  Nothing.  She exists in a vacuum until introduced as a plot objective...and even then she has only as much importance as one gives her (my character failed to kill Lolth, permanently or otherwise, but she did not "ravage the planet" or anything).

Alignment in Old School D&D...good, evil, or otherwise...doesn't mean much compared to the objectives introduced by the DM and the actions of the players themselves.  If an NPC ruler is torturing one of the PCs, who cares what his alignment or motivation is...the other PCs are going to stage a rescue for their buddy (if they like him) or not (if they don't).  Who cares that a dragon or archon is "good" in alignment...if it's guarding some needed quest item "unto death" than the PCs are going to kill it and find a way to justify their actions (maybe!) later.

This is yet another reason why I'm moving back to B/X addition to everything else, I want to leave the whole question of good and evil out of the game.  Some monsters are of Chaos and many are Neutral, but alignment is only a question of whether you stand for a civilized order or not.  The cosmic throw-down version of alignment seems to best answer the question of the difference between Chaotic and Lawful clerics, and the alignment of certain magic swords or other enchanted items.  If not for these things, there'd be little need for alignment in the D&D world.

1 comment:

  1. Dude, Grognardia has trumped me 3 times, two of those by a day or less on article topics. Most everything I want to write about is being blogged by somebody right now.

    My advice, fagiddaboutit.

    Yes, LNC- Gods, huh?, Cthulhu is the way to go for sandboxish exploration type games. For more plot driven games I like "factions" best. Factions being things such as "Church of Thor", "Britania", "forces of good", "justice", "me". Characters "follow" one or more factions.

    word verification "impable" is that an improbable impalement?