Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Good vs. Evil

One of the things I look for and enjoy about fantasy roleplaying games (especially Dugeons & Dragons) is the appearance of classic story elements. While some clamor for verisimilitude in the game mechanics, I look for the connection between the game's concepts and the human experience.

D&D 4th edition fixed a long running problem both mechanically and numerically. Page 19 of the 4th edition Player's Handbook says, "Most people in the world, and plenty of player characters, haven't signed up to play on any team-they're unaligned". Human beings don't typically fit into neat little boxes and the lowliest 3rd edition Paladins can't walk around scanning politicians every ten seconds with detect evil at will as a spell-like ability in order to determine whom to cull from the herd.

I'll admit that my gaming group dropped alignment long before the release of 4th edition and it wasn't that hard. Only rarely did we encounter problems where the game mechanics of D&D strongly preferred we retain alignment rules and penalized players (or monsters) because we had chosen a more realistic approach to human nature.

The 4th edition concession to an Unaligned alignment could be slightly improved. People have free will to choose between Good versus Evil in each situation they encounter and the oppressive dictator might be a gentle father to his children. From the first book of the Bible we see the character of Esau who lavished his father, Isaac, with honor and respect but was willing to murder his brother. The sentient population of a D&D world isn't just Unaligned, they're in-between Good v Evil and a mix of both at the same time.

In order for people to relate with Dungeons & Dragons, it should mesh with the broad tropes of storytelling.


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