Proper Villainy Virtuosity

2008 January 10
by Vanir

Today, I’d like to expand a bit on the concepts Dante discussed in his post on Good characters earlier this week. I’d planned to do this awhile back, but life (and recently, Rock Band) got in the way.

Just like evil characters, good isn’t quite so cut and dried as it might seem.

Dudley Do-Right

One commonly used model for Good characters is the stereotypical Knight in Shining Armor. He’s on a neverending crusade against Evil, feeds the hungry, saves the day, and gets the princess. He always does what’s right, and everyone loves him for it.

Works in the storybooks, right? Well, one reason that works is that usually the stories are pretty simple. Dragon kidnaps princess, knight slays dragon, kingdom rejoices. It’s kind of a no-brainer as to what that knight ought to do. But what if it wasn’t that easy?

Er, which thing is the “right” thing?

About the only thing you can really definitively say about what “Good” is is that it’s really subjective! Sure, there are some very widely used interpretations of how Good people are supposed to act (“thou shalt not kill”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, etc.), but even these don’t hold up in all cases. All you have to do is stick a “unless they’re evil” or “unless they’re the enemy” on the end of the statement and a lot of self-proclaimed Good types will start doing things that certainly resemble Evil — but do it in the name of Truth, Justice, and the <your faction here> Way and it’s a Good action! Right?

Nevermind the fact that what’s Good to some is not Good to others. I dread the possible impact this might have on our poor unsuspecting comment system, but one need look no further than the issue of abortion. I’m not EVEN going to get into whether or not I believe it’s right or not on this blog. (Are you kidding??!) But I don’t think anyone will disagree when I say that some people VERY CLEARLY have differing opinions on what is the right thing to do (or even what’s remotely acceptable) than others. And then when people start killing off doctors and blowing up clinics in the name of saving lives, were those good or evil acts? Or both?

The temptation exists with topics like these to try to analyze everything and argue one side or the other on what’s Good and what isn’t. And you can argue the fine points of every little part of an issue until you’re blue in the face, the DM kills everyone, and none of the other players speaks to you for a month. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a game session where this happened. <raises hand> And no, it wasn’t me!)

However, this is not a philosophy blog, and you’re not here to peruse arguments over what is virtuous and what is not. You’re here to think about roleplaying. I submit that no character (or action) is ever truly Good(tm) or Evil(tm), and it is best simply to figure out how your character would react given the circumstances, his personality and ethics, and his past experiences. A Basically Good character will likely be kind, generous, and will sometimes royally screw up and really, really regret it. (Just like real people!) And maybe, just maybe, they’ll try to seek redemption somehow.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is like super Quik-Gro fertilizer for roleplaying. Perfection is boring!

As with Proper Villainy, this topic is much bigger than one post. And while I cannot tell you what a Good character is or isn’t, I will be taking a closer look at some of the things that traditionally Good characters share.

Until next time…. um… <glittery laughter of faeries>

I don’t think I’ll be doing that anymore. That’s scarier than the evil laugher……

One Response leave one →
  1. Vanir permalink
    January 11, 2008

    Note to self: the <strike> HTML tag doesn’t work so well in feed readers….

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