Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Good Guys & Bad Guys

If you’ve read quite a bit of our products, you might have seen the comments about good vs. evil. There are no pre-established alignments in Legend Quest. As a GM, I make people use their acting skills when they are acting untrue to character. The most common time this happens is when someone who is willing to slit the throat of a sleeping enemy wants to talk to a child. Kids aren’t dummies. They can sense a cold-blooded killer when they face one. If you are a cold-blooded killer and want to talk to a kid without having the child run away screaming in fear, you need to mask your true nature.
Back to good vs. evil. One of the main reasons we did not introduce an alignment system was originally because of the paladin vs. paladin controversy. Here’s how it started: Myork is filled with knights who consider themselves to be the best examples of truth and goodness in the world. They are so good and noble that they travel to other lands and defeat horrible enemies in order to protect those people. The people of Purity are also good people and want “good” for the world. There were plans that at some point, Myork was going to try to take over the world, mainly in order to invoke martial law on the world and stamp out evil and lawlessness. This sounds to me like something that paladins would want to do. (I’ve always been partial to pallies!) At first, Purity and their navy were going to help Myork, but as the war waged on, the Tandish/Purity soldiers and pallies were going to start to feel that they were not doing good by forcing good on others. Eventually Purity would join the others and Myork would fight the entire rest of the world. There would be battles in which the paladins of Purity would battle against the paladins of Myork. Each side would be doing what was “good”. (Do the ends justify the means? Some times.) Anyway, too many people assumed that it would be impossible for people doing good to fight against each other. (Most tried to vilify the Myork knights for imposing law on the world, but if you have a system that works, isn’t it a good thing to bring it to everyone? Yep - the fact that the USA has pulled the world out of crisis after crisis and is vilified as empire builders in Iraq certainly wasn’t lost on me, but the plans for the pally vs. pally war that never was were laid back in the early 90s.)
Anyway. As we laid the plans for Legend Quest, this was in my mind. “Good” is not universally defined. It is my belief that damn near no one would actually think of themselves as “evil”. Do we as a culture condemn actions of other people as evil? Of course we do. What are those people thinking in their minds? Well, of course individuals might recognize themselves as evil. They might be mentally deranged. But if a large group of people is acting in an evil manner, chances are they have rationalized the situation to make it OK in their hearts. “We’re wiping out that race of people because they are evil and unpure.” “We are taking back the lands that our ancestors once held for six days, so it is rightly ours.” “After an insult like that one, we simply cannot allow our enemies to live without erasing our forefathers’ honor.” To an outsider, it may be so much crap, but to someone acting with this as their justification, not so much.
What’s the end? No one, certainly not a collection of people, considers themselves to be evil. Doesn’t that screw up the whole alignment thing?

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