Posted by: allhailthoon | April 20, 2010

For Goodness Sake: the Logical Follow Up to a Whole Lot of Evil

After reading the posts on evil, a friend of mine suggested that I write a similar post about good aligned characters. She felt that too many people tend to lean towards neutral characters because good too often seems synonymous with boring. While I touched on the idea before with my report on paladins, I think it’s definitely a subject that deserves the full treatment.

From a role play perspective, the problem with good is that it can appear to be too obvious. Orphanage needs saving? Can do! Maiden needs rescuing? Which way do I go? While this makes it really easy for the DM to lead the party around, I confess that it can result in some pretty dull role play.

The key to livening things up is to think in terms of personal principles and views on what is moral and ethical. Take a lawful good Knight for example. If he follows a code that calls for honor and courage in all things, he probably won’t be cool with the chaotic good rogue going around backstabbing, even if they people getting shanked are the villains. On the other hand, that very same rogue could very well firmly believe that the knight’s honor is holding back the party and preventing them from doing the best they can.

Also, take some time to really think about what your character would and would not do. Where do they draw the line between justice and murder (see Opinicus’s last post for more on this)? If thugs attack them in the street and demand their money, the knight might rough them up and take them to the town watch or the rogue might take their weapons and leave them tied up in the local pig trough, but why would either kill them? And what about all the people that work for the villain? Sure, their bosses probably need to die, but killing every single guard probably isn’t necessary.

Of course, letting people who aren’t on your team live might come back to haunt you later, but probably not as much as the innocent blood on your hands. Even this can be interesting though, especially with a creative DM. While the minion you released may come back later as a higher level lieutenant of the boss, that assassin you spared because he was only doing a job could prove to be a valuable ally. But why stop there? The guard you did kill may have a powerful brother who now wants you dead and that thug lying in the alley without his kidneys could have been your best way to gain an audience with the Thief King.

Hell, there are plenty of neat ways a DM can challenge a good character that don’t necessarily work with neutral or evil characters. They can make situations arise that force moral choices from their characters, such as whether or not to save their fellow party member or an NPC child from falling off a cliff (mind you, you wouldn’t need to resort to killing PCs just to make a point, but upping the danger factor a little will bring out someone’s true colors). Hell, even have the PCs choose between themselves or the NPCs (though I don’t recommend guaranteeing their deaths unless you’re ready to end the game or they really want to roll up new characters). It’s easy to say you’re good when it’s not your ass on the line, if you don’t put your money where your mouth is when it is, well, you’re probably neutral.

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Responses

  1. I actually have the hardest time playing neutral characters. They always end up gravitating more towards one polarity or another. If I play a Neutral character for the sake of being able to do what I want, it tends to gravitate to good. Occasionally though he turns out horribly evil. To note is a hobgoblin bard I made. There was almost no interest in the game from any of the players and the GM was running it as a ways to appease me (we were going to play an existing game, but then he brought over this girl and wanted to run something with her in it.) The big point of the module was that there was this poor dude who was in love with this rich guy’s daughter, they were planning to elope, but for some reason (I was actually playing Starcraft when he was explaining this part so I missed much) he had to win this tournament. The rich dude hired an assassin to kill him in the tournament, and the daughter hired us to save him from the assassin. Long story short, we kept killing people (due to scripted encounters), and instead of just looting the bodies and leaving them there, we took them to the poor guy’s house (he happened to be a cooper). We then made him an accessory to murder so he couldn’t betray us (we made him help us dismember the bodies and the hide their mangled remains in his barrels so we could transport them out of town). I thought sullying the Romeo with such grim deeds was more fun than letting him get away with true love.
    and yes, I was playing an homicidal sociopath, I was a hobgoblin!

    • I’m not actually sure what this comment has to do with the post, I just got carried away.

  2. I remember that game! It was after I watched Guys and Dolls, so I made Big Louie the reformed criminal (“Nineteen arrests and only one conviction!”), and mostly based him on Samuel L Jackson’s character from Pulp Fiction. I actually enjoyed that game, but yeah – so much for my crusader being LG!

    • I actually enjoyed it too, but only after we started making Romeo dispose of all the corpses we generated, that and when we plotted to turn him in for a reward. Let that be a lesson, just because we’re PC’s doesn’t mean we can be trusted.


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