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The nature of good and evil is always shades of grey. Black and white is only a perception, and one that is shared by more people than actually practice it. Meaning many evil people actually think they are doing good, and many people percieved as good are in fact some shade of evil, while a great many people prefer to see the world in that simple prism. Lots of people equate 'nice' with 'good'.... they are not the same, not even remotely.

 

As Calmar alludes to above, most evil people are not cartoonish evil frothing at the mouth demons, but are nice (on the surface) polite seemingly on the surface good samaritans. Only those who get in their way or really pay attention will know otherwise, and even the former may not realize whom exactly did the evil unto them.

 

At the heart of evil is corruption.

 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

While there is room for improvement, the past infinity games, as well as NWN2 did a good job overall of allowing players to pursue an evil path and find 'equal or greater' rewards in doing so. There most certainly were some amazing pieces of loot that only could be obtained by doing something 'evil' in those games. In some cases better than anything one would find playing a 'good' character. An infamous example of this would be slaying Drizzt and taking his swords in Baldur's Gate. There were also story arcs that would only happen if you pursued an 'evil' path.

 

My advice to you if you think that the past infinity games rewarded good over evil too much is that you should roleplay your character more. Your reasons for doing things are not necessarily the reasons the game gives you. If this doesn't make sense to you I recommend watching

. You needn't watch the entire thing, but the first few sessions should give you an idea of how to roleplay evil a bit.

 

Something I've noticed on these boards is that the concept of roleplaying actually escapes many of the posters (The PE Paladin thread is full of people who see in black and white). Just like a Game Master in the PnP games that inspired the games we play, the game designer will only be able to give you the environment, opportunity, and narative. How you play your character, and what his or her motives are, is going to be up to you. I highly recommend roleplaying your game and character when you play, it's generally a much more rewarding experience.

I agree with what you say.But the distinction should not be only in roleplaying it. An example of what i consider good quest design and what i meant when i made the thread is the quest in DA:O when you try to save the earl's son from the desire demon.You can make a deal with the demon and learn blood magic.No one learns of this,which makes sense as there is no way for somebody to know, so no reputation loses and you get the alliance with the earl the same way as if you banish the demon.An "evil" person, when evil means someone without conscience who is willing to condemn a child to possesion from a demon in exchange of power or even simple sex, will do it, a "good" person, someone who is no willing to deal with demons and sacrifice children to achieve his goals wont do it. In my opinion this offers more opportunity for roleplaying than to do the optimal thing when you save the day,get the girl and gain the most XP on top of that.

Edited by Malekith
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And I agree, rewards shouldn't be tied to some artificial morality system, although purely based om difficulty isn't always right either. If it makes sense that those you helped reward you with something very valuable, ok fine, but dont give out artifacts like candy, just because the quest required a bit more effort to complete.

 

XP is very valuably I'd think. Something like (thinking really black-white for a second, just go with it, okay?) the good guy goes to hell and back, so gets loads of XP (cause he went through loads of effort) while getting relatively small rewards from the questgiver; while the bad guy just murders the questgiver and takes his stuff so he gets more gold and items but much less XP.

 

That said, the more grey the moral choices are the better, I think KotOR2 made an interesting attempt in that direction.

 

Wouldn't an evil guy generally not want to be an adventurer since that's a rather ****ty profession. Hitman, mercenary, enforcer, bounty hunter; those are all more likely ways of life for someone with the kind of skill set an adventurer would possess.

 

Since we're talking about what a "real" bad guy would do and all.

That's where the story comes in I'd think ;)

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Wouldn't an evil guy generally not want to be an adventurer since that's a rather ****ty profession. Hitman, mercenary, enforcer, bounty hunter; those are all more likely ways of life for someone with the kind of skill set an adventurer would possess.

 

Since we're talking about what a "real" bad guy would do and all.

 

I agree, an "evil" person usually doesn't travel with a band of merry companions saving the world. He is in it for himself.

 

A game that really played well with a concept of "evil" was imo ME and ME2. Going renegade didn't mean you went overboard with stupid-evil actions. It meant you were less likely to grant mercy. It meant caring less for the well being of others. It meant having an overall darker perception of the universe reflected in your actions and what you said.

 

There was that great scene with that evil scientist in ME1 where you and Garus finally caught him and then the game presented you with a nice moral dilemma. Adhere to laws and higher moral principles or just execute that bastard. The game made me think, and I love it when a game does that and also challenges my perception of morality.

 

We can only hope we will get something similar in PE :)

 

I'll go with that, ME(2) did the whole moral thing well, but I don't think anyone would call Shep evil; if anything it was different shades of good guy. Too bad the third game decided to turn renegade Shep from a hardcore "do whatever it takes" type character into a straight up ****ing psycho (who gets PTSD for some retarded reason).

 

 

Come to think of it Jade Empire did the evil path well since there the moral system was similar in style to ME, but you really had to be a complete sociopath to go all the way with closed fist path. At the same time, however, the evil decisions made sense as opposed to just being "evil."

 

Wouldn't an evil guy generally not want to be an adventurer since that's a rather ****ty profession. Hitman, mercenary, enforcer, bounty hunter; those are all more likely ways of life for someone with the kind of skill set an adventurer would possess.

 

Since we're talking about what a "real" bad guy would do and all.

 

What exactly is an "adventurer"? Its not a profession. A selfish person (evil its not a good description as the above posters said) will do it to loot ruins and tombs and can work as bounty hunter,mercenary, or hitman during his adventures.Nobody forces you to go to the wilderness to "explore". In BG2 you stay in the city for the bigger duration of the game

 

An adventurer implies you have a certain set of skills that make you good at survival and, more than likely, killing. A selfish person with those skills probably wouldn't want go out searching for ruins and tombs to loot and instead want to seek out an easier, and quicker, source of revenue.

The same way as a good guy wont go to loot tombs but stay to protect the people and join the city guard?

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I think one needs to differentiate "pychotic" evil from "selfish" evil. I played a selfish character in KOTOR and not a psychotic one. I never butchered people just so, I never went out of my way to hurt another character with no benefit to myself. But by the end of the game my character had maximum dark side points, and I think had alot more money than my light side character did from my first playthrough. I think Psychotic behavior should be punished, because let's face it, it normally is. Even your evil mastermind is not going to want some random psycho or sociopath running around. They can't be controlled, and they might destroy some of his valuable resources. On the other hand selfish behavior is quite another matter. Selfish people, especially those who are intellegent enough to mask it and manipulate others, are unfortunately often those who proft in conflicts.

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Keeping Heather as your ghoul gets you the best armor in the game.

 

Wait, what? I always kept Heather around until... well, you know -

she was murdered

- and I didn't get any special kind of armor from her.

The best armor I ever found was the 4th tier heavy leather armor that you could buy in Chinatown. Did you have to do something special to get the 5th tier armor from her?

Give her some kind of command? Or is it possible that it was part of a mod, like Camarilla Edition, or something? Or only available to certain clans?

 

Off-topic, I know. Sorry! As you were...

 

You get body armor if Heather stays your ghoul after you trigger the Hell Hotel (or whatever it's called) event. If you send her away, you get +1 humanity. I believe it's the best armor in the game, without exception, though depending upon what patch you play with the game, there maybe another way to get the armor, or armor better than it.

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I made a 2 hour rant video about dragon age 2. It's not the greatest... but if you want to watch it, here ya go:

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On a micro level, there is, indeed, only choices and consequences. A selfish action - ie demanding reward for rescuing a child - ought to be no different than a selfless action other than in how it affects the PC's reputation with the NPCs who learn of this action. Said effect is simply a function of the NPCs' own moral compass and level of caring. Indeed, this is the way a lot of modern games handle morality. In Dragon Age 2, for example, being moral just gives you +friendship with characters who are also moral.

 

On a macro level, however, there are thematic principles at stake. Which NPCs favor decency? What far ranging consequences do selfless actions have? What sort of content does being selfless, versus being selfish, open up? These are questions that, when answered, assign a value - ideally a thematic value - to morality within a game. As a designer, you have to decide what, ultimately, is the outcome for a 'nice' PC versus a 'douchebag' PC. How you do so affects the moral undercurrent of your game, and the best designers are cognizant of this and make use of it.

 

Thus, though morality is, at one level, simply a redundant artifice that is easily dismissed by jaded gamers bored of AD&D alignments, at another it is an issue of utmost importance in game design. Because it is humans who are behind the design of games, and because the best games are expressions of themes, how situations are resolved by moral vs. immoral actions are never just the cranking of indifferent machinery from which rational choices and their logical consequences emerge.

 

Indeed, because morality is a subject of thematic exploration, there are tropes and subversion opportunities. Take a player who meticulously tries to be decent and selfless in every decision. How is she going to react to a game design that sarcastically and cynically punishes such actions? Appeasing players at every turn is not a great game's goal. Instead, at times it is needed to go against what the player logically desires to drive home a theme. For example, to imbue the notion that the world the player inhabits is a very different world from ours, it is useful to give actions that are morally correct in our own world the crappiest results in the game world. The craft is in how to make such a design poignant rather than random.

 

In the same way morality is never just black and white, morality in games is never just 'have' vs. 'not have.'

Edited by Azarkon

There are doors

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In most games( IE games and original Fallouts included) the "good" options awarded better than the evil ones.That doesn't make sense.Unless they are mentaly unstable psychopaths, in real life most people don't do ''evil'' deeds just for the kicks of it but for selfish reasons. They do it because being evil rewards better then do the good thing. This isn't an absolute case of course. But when it makes sense the evil option to gain you more than the good one(most of the time,after all what exactly is the "evil option" if not to put your personal gain above the good of others) it must reflected in the game.

I think it will lead to more interesting choices in the gameplay if the player has to sacrifise something (gold,information,...)to uphold his principles, as well as cases that there is no clear good or bad solution.

 

It has been said many times by Obsidian staffers that they don't like Black and White, Good vs. Evil morality and that they want to explore mature themes in the game, so it is extremely unlikely that any such thing will come into play. The idea of a black and white morality is an immature, stubbornly self-deluding one.

Edited by AGX-17
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Adventurer is a blanket term for character. Its intentionally vague and doesn't necessarily mean a survivalist type. An adventurer could be a bounty hunter, or mercenary or grave robber or thief(hence the thief class), or just a murderer. Its really all up to the player and DM, D&D is a lot more free-form than people realize (or at least it was). Once again evil is not a personality trait. A greedy person may see great value in raiding ancient tombs, a fierce and hot-tempered one may simply enjoy the act of killing, a megalomaniac may want to prove how great he is. Not wanting to adventure would just make you lazy, not evil.

 

D&D may be free form, but the IE games hardly were. There are always the elder scrolls games for people who just want a fantasy sandbox.

Edited by Dream
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Adventurer is a blanket term for character. Its intentionally vague and doesn't necessarily mean a survivalist type. An adventurer could be a bounty hunter, or mercenary or grave robber or thief(hence the thief class), or just a murderer. Its really all up to the player and DM, D&D is a lot more free-form than people realize (or at least it was). Once again evil is not a personality trait. A greedy person may see great value in raiding ancient tombs, a fierce and hot-tempered one may simply enjoy the act of killing, a megalomaniac may want to prove how great he is. Not wanting to adventure would just make you lazy, not evil.

 

D&D may be free form, but the IE games hardly were. There are always the elder scrolls games for people who just want a fantasy sandbox.

 

I was defining the term adventurer in the rpg context not specifically referring to any particular game. We don't know what the role of the player will be in PE so that would be conjecture at this point.

 

 

On a micro level, there is, indeed, only choices and consequences. A selfish action - ie demanding reward for rescuing a child - ought to be no different than a selfless action other than in how it affects the PC's reputation with the NPCs who learn of this action. Said effect is simply a function of the NPCs' own moral compass and level of caring. Indeed, this is the way a lot of modern games handle morality. In Dragon Age 2, for example, being moral just gives you +friendship with characters who are also moral.

 

On a macro level, however, there are thematic principles at stake. Which NPCs favor decency? What far ranging consequences do selfless actions have? What sort of content does being selfless, versus being selfish, open up? These are questions that, when answered, assign a value - ideally a thematic value - to morality within a game. As a designer, you have to decide what, ultimately, is the outcome for a 'nice' PC versus a 'douchebag' PC. How you do so affects the moral undercurrent of your game, and the best designers are cognizant of this and make use of it.

 

Thus, though morality is, at one level, simply a redundant artifice that is easily dismissed by jaded gamers bored of AD&D alignments, at another it is an issue of utmost importance in game design. Because it is humans who are behind the design of games, and because the best games are expressions of themes, how situations are resolved by moral vs. immoral actions are never just the cranking of indifferent machinery from which rational choices and their logical consequences emerge.

 

Indeed, because morality is a subject of thematic exploration, there are tropes and subversion opportunities. Take a player who meticulously tries to be decent and selfless in every decision. How is she going to react to a game design that sarcastically and cynically punishes such actions? Appeasing players at every turn is not a great game's goal. Instead, at times it is needed to go against what the player logically desires to drive home a theme. For example, to imbue the notion that the world the player inhabits is a very different world from ours, it is useful to give actions that are morally correct in our own world the crappiest results in the game world. The craft is in how to make such a design poignant rather than random.

 

In the same way morality is never just black and white, morality in games is never just 'have' vs. 'not have.'

 

I don't think anyone was suggesting that. It's not a matter of not having morality, obviously morality should be present. It's a matter of depicting morality as it is in real life; nuanced and subjective. When I say the game shouldn't have a a morality system, I don't mean that the actions you take should have intentionally counter-intuitive results or none at all. I mean each different npc should react differently to your actions, based on their own personal morality.

 

You could choose to do nothing but deeds you considered to be decent and selfless, but that doesn't mean they will be perceived as such or that you are automatically entitled to any reward for doing so. Suicide bombers actions are doubtlessly selfless, but they are still (I'm sure most would agree) pretty evil. A rich man may think its decent to offer some scraps from his table to a poor beggar, but the beggar may consider this patronizing and cruel. Thematic elements don't really enter into it, you just do what you think your character would do, the game reacts accordingly, and you reach your own conclusions. Rather than always choosing one option or another so the game can pat you on the back or tell you your a d*ck, respectively.

Edited by jezz555
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On a micro level, there is, indeed, only choices and consequences. A selfish action - ie demanding reward for rescuing a child - ought to be no different than a selfless action other than in how it affects the PC's reputation with the NPCs who learn of this action. Said effect is simply a function of the NPCs' own moral compass and level of caring. Indeed, this is the way a lot of modern games handle morality. In Dragon Age 2, for example, being moral just gives you +friendship with characters who are also moral.

 

On a macro level, however, there are thematic principles at stake. Which NPCs favor decency? What far ranging consequences do selfless actions have? What sort of content does being selfless, versus being selfish, open up? These are questions that, when answered, assign a value - ideally a thematic value - to morality within a game. As a designer, you have to decide what, ultimately, is the outcome for a 'nice' PC versus a 'douchebag' PC. How you do so affects the moral undercurrent of your game, and the best designers are cognizant of this and make use of it.

 

Thus, though morality is, at one level, simply a redundant artifice that is easily dismissed by jaded gamers bored of AD&D alignments, at another it is an issue of utmost importance in game design. Because it is humans who are behind the design of games, and because the best games are expressions of themes, how situations are resolved by moral vs. immoral actions are never just the cranking of indifferent machinery from which rational choices and their logical consequences emerge.

 

Indeed, because morality is a subject of thematic exploration, there are tropes and subversion opportunities. Take a player who meticulously tries to be decent and selfless in every decision. How is she going to react to a game design that sarcastically and cynically punishes such actions? Appeasing players at every turn is not a great game's goal. Instead, at times it is needed to go against what the player logically desires to drive home a theme. For example, to imbue the notion that the world the player inhabits is a very different world from ours, it is useful to give actions that are morally correct in our own world the crappiest results in the game world. The craft is in how to make such a design poignant rather than random.

 

In the same way morality is never just black and white, morality in games is never just 'have' vs. 'not have.'

 

I don't think anyone was suggesting that. It's not a matter of not having morality, obviously morality should be present. It's a matter of depicting morality as it is in real life; nuanced and subjective. When I say the game shouldn't have a a morality system, I don't mean that the actions you take should have intentionally counter-intuitive results or none at all. I mean each different npc should react differently to your actions, based on their own personal morality.

 

You could choose to do nothing but deeds you considered to be decent and selfless, but that doesn't mean they will be perceived as such or that you are automatically entitled to any reward for doing so. Suicide bombers actions are doubtlessly selfless, but they are still (I'm sure most would agree) pretty evil. A rich man may think its decent to offer some scraps from his table to a poor beggar, but the beggar may consider this patronizing and cruel. Thematic elements don't really enter into it, you just do what you think your character would do, the game reacts accordingly, and you reach your own conclusions. Rather than always choosing one option or another so the game can pat you on the back or tell you your a d*ck, respectively.

 

Thematic elements don't have to enter it, but in its absence, a default - ie the designer's - moral compass inevitably does, because it is he / she who has to craft your options, the game's reactions, and the presentation of outcomes. My conveyance is that even when you think you are simply following the logical maxim of choice and consequence, the end result is never independent of an a priori moral system. Indeed, the very act of deciding the choose events in a game requires the presence of such a system, because practically speaking there is no way to offer the player every choose event imaginable.

 

To make it concrete, consider the following example:

 

The PC finds a torture victim in a dungeon.

 

He is allowed to:

 

?

??

???

...

 

The result of <X> is:

 

? -> ___

?? -> ___

??? -> ___

...

 

I argue that how you choose to fill in the blanks is a function of your moral compass, even when you think that you are just roleplaying the characters.

Edited by Azarkon

There are doors

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I argue that how you choose to fill in the blanks is a function of your moral compass, even when you think that you are just roleplaying the characters.

 

Sure, but it's a given that your personality is going to influence your characters to a point. They are your characters after all. But I don't think it's too hideously idealistic a goal, to create something that isn't entirely based on your own personality and biases.

 

 

Suicide bombers actions are doubtlessly selfless, but they are still (I'm sure most would agree) pretty evil.

 

Being promised 92 virgins as a reward would hardly qualify an action as selfless.

 

I think It's 72 and I'd say it's still self-sacrifice more or less. Furthermore I didn't just mean Muslims, Japanese Kamikaze's would also qualify. But regardless the idea is that you are sacrificing yourself for an ideology you consider worth dying for and you consider good, but others may consider evil.

Edited by jezz555
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On a micro level, there is, indeed, only choices and consequences. A selfish action - ie demanding reward for rescuing a child - ought to be no different than a selfless action other than in how it affects the PC's reputation with the NPCs who learn of this action. Said effect is simply a function of the NPCs' own moral compass and level of caring. Indeed, this is the way a lot of modern games handle morality. In Dragon Age 2, for example, being moral just gives you +friendship with characters who are also moral.

 

On a macro level, however, there are thematic principles at stake. Which NPCs favor decency? What far ranging consequences do selfless actions have? What sort of content does being selfless, versus being selfish, open up? These are questions that, when answered, assign a value - ideally a thematic value - to morality within a game. As a designer, you have to decide what, ultimately, is the outcome for a 'nice' PC versus a 'douchebag' PC. How you do so affects the moral undercurrent of your game, and the best designers are cognizant of this and make use of it.

 

Thus, though morality is, at one level, simply a redundant artifice that is easily dismissed by jaded gamers bored of AD&D alignments, at another it is an issue of utmost importance in game design. Because it is humans who are behind the design of games, and because the best games are expressions of themes, how situations are resolved by moral vs. immoral actions are never just the cranking of indifferent machinery from which rational choices and their logical consequences emerge.

 

Indeed, because morality is a subject of thematic exploration, there are tropes and subversion opportunities. Take a player who meticulously tries to be decent and selfless in every decision. How is she going to react to a game design that sarcastically and cynically punishes such actions? Appeasing players at every turn is not a great game's goal. Instead, at times it is needed to go against what the player logically desires to drive home a theme. For example, to imbue the notion that the world the player inhabits is a very different world from ours, it is useful to give actions that are morally correct in our own world the crappiest results in the game world. The craft is in how to make such a design poignant rather than random.

 

In the same way morality is never just black and white, morality in games is never just 'have' vs. 'not have.'

 

I don't think anyone was suggesting that. It's not a matter of not having morality, obviously morality should be present. It's a matter of depicting morality as it is in real life; nuanced and subjective. When I say the game shouldn't have a a morality system, I don't mean that the actions you take should have intentionally counter-intuitive results or none at all. I mean each different npc should react differently to your actions, based on their own personal morality.

 

You could choose to do nothing but deeds you considered to be decent and selfless, but that doesn't mean they will be perceived as such or that you are automatically entitled to any reward for doing so. Suicide bombers actions are doubtlessly selfless, but they are still (I'm sure most would agree) pretty evil. A rich man may think its decent to offer some scraps from his table to a poor beggar, but the beggar may consider this patronizing and cruel. Thematic elements don't really enter into it, you just do what you think your character would do, the game reacts accordingly, and you reach your own conclusions. Rather than always choosing one option or another so the game can pat you on the back or tell you your a d*ck, respectively.

 

Thematic elements don't have to enter it, but in its absence, a default - ie the designer's - moral compass inevitably does, because it is he / she who has to craft your options, the game's reactions, and the presentation of outcomes. My conveyance is that even when you think you are simply following the logical maxim of choice and consequence, the end result is never independent of an a priori moral system. Indeed, the very act of deciding the choose events in a game requires the presence of such a system, because practically speaking there is no way to offer the player every choose event imaginable.

 

To make it concrete, consider the following example:

 

The PC finds a torture victim in a dungeon.

 

He is allowed to:

 

?

??

???

...

 

The result of <X> is:

 

? -> ___

?? -> ___

??? -> ___

...

 

I argue that how you choose to fill in the blanks is a function of your moral compass, even when you think that you are just roleplaying the characters.

 

I would argue it is not the designers (personal) moral compass but the compass of the theme/story they have decided to portray that leads to their choice of options to offer you altho different writers working on different sections may skew the theme/story towards their own take on the theme/story which may differ from others to some degree (likely a small one as I assume they are managed (or possibly edited) well enough to keep them all on the same page most of the time.)

 

As for your own choices being a funtion of your own moral compass even when you are roleplaying I'd say that varies considerably from player to player just generally and will probably depend at least in part in how close or far away from the players own percieved vision of himself he perceives character he has chosen to play to be -

 

Perhaps on how much thought he has put into that choice as well - judging from the discussions we see on the forums - players that truly immerse themselves in their characters motivation and the desire to portray that character in that manner regardless of consequences might be a bit few and far between compared to the number of people who take their characters deep motivations much more lightly and are more interested in just having some fun with them. 8)

Nomadic Wayfarer of the Obsidian Order


 

Not all those that wander are lost...

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All Sunni Muslims receive 72 virgins (or houri) upon entering Heaven (along with 80,000 servants), not only suicide-bombers. So they're basically just promising them Heaven, not special treatment in Heaven. So, evil or not, it's no less of a sacrifice than it is for any martyr.

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"We have nothing to fear but fear itself! Apart from pain... and maybe humiliation. And obviously death and failure. But apart from fear, pain, humiliation, failure, the unknown and death, we have nothing to fear but fear itself!"

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The reason why most RPGs are black/white and have that "physiognomy of evil" is the D&D alignment system, which doesn't really have shades of grey when it comes to evil. Yes, you have those shades with neutral and chaotic/lawful, but it's not the same as in The Witcher for example. The good and evil conflict is stupid anyways, I think what's better is to give the player guilt-free choices on which the player can reflect without feeling that "Oh, an ethics twist!" like in most Star Trek: TNG episodes. I feel that many RPGs put guilt into any decision subtextually so people can never mess up what they do.

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The reason why most RPGs are black/white and have that "physiognomy of evil" is the D&D alignment system, which doesn't really have shades of grey when it comes to evil. Yes, you have those shades with neutral and chaotic/lawful, but it's not the same as in The Witcher for example. The good and evil conflict is stupid anyways, I think what's better is to give the player guilt-free choices on which the player can reflect without feeling that "Oh, an ethics twist!" like in most Star Trek: TNG episodes. I feel that many RPGs put guilt into any decision subtextually so people can never mess up what they do.

I think it would be better if they did it so that you can have guilty decisions, decisions which actually would make you feel something, rather than just option a,b,c which do nothing to the player.

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On a micro level, there is, indeed, only choices and consequences. A selfish action - ie demanding reward for rescuing a child - ought to be no different than a selfless action other than in how it affects the PC's reputation with the NPCs who learn of this action. Said effect is simply a function of the NPCs' own moral compass and level of caring. Indeed, this is the way a lot of modern games handle morality. In Dragon Age 2, for example, being moral just gives you +friendship with characters who are also moral.

 

On a macro level, however, there are thematic principles at stake. Which NPCs favor decency? What far ranging consequences do selfless actions have? What sort of content does being selfless, versus being selfish, open up? These are questions that, when answered, assign a value - ideally a thematic value - to morality within a game. As a designer, you have to decide what, ultimately, is the outcome for a 'nice' PC versus a 'douchebag' PC. How you do so affects the moral undercurrent of your game, and the best designers are cognizant of this and make use of it.

 

Thus, though morality is, at one level, simply a redundant artifice that is easily dismissed by jaded gamers bored of AD&D alignments, at another it is an issue of utmost importance in game design. Because it is humans who are behind the design of games, and because the best games are expressions of themes, how situations are resolved by moral vs. immoral actions are never just the cranking of indifferent machinery from which rational choices and their logical consequences emerge.

 

Indeed, because morality is a subject of thematic exploration, there are tropes and subversion opportunities. Take a player who meticulously tries to be decent and selfless in every decision. How is she going to react to a game design that sarcastically and cynically punishes such actions? Appeasing players at every turn is not a great game's goal. Instead, at times it is needed to go against what the player logically desires to drive home a theme. For example, to imbue the notion that the world the player inhabits is a very different world from ours, it is useful to give actions that are morally correct in our own world the crappiest results in the game world. The craft is in how to make such a design poignant rather than random.

 

In the same way morality is never just black and white, morality in games is never just 'have' vs. 'not have.'

 

I don't think anyone was suggesting that. It's not a matter of not having morality, obviously morality should be present. It's a matter of depicting morality as it is in real life; nuanced and subjective. When I say the game shouldn't have a a morality system, I don't mean that the actions you take should have intentionally counter-intuitive results or none at all. I mean each different npc should react differently to your actions, based on their own personal morality.

 

You could choose to do nothing but deeds you considered to be decent and selfless, but that doesn't mean they will be perceived as such or that you are automatically entitled to any reward for doing so. Suicide bombers actions are doubtlessly selfless, but they are still (I'm sure most would agree) pretty evil. A rich man may think its decent to offer some scraps from his table to a poor beggar, but the beggar may consider this patronizing and cruel. Thematic elements don't really enter into it, you just do what you think your character would do, the game reacts accordingly, and you reach your own conclusions. Rather than always choosing one option or another so the game can pat you on the back or tell you your a d*ck, respectively.

 

Thematic elements don't have to enter it, but in its absence, a default - ie the designer's - moral compass inevitably does, because it is he / she who has to craft your options, the game's reactions, and the presentation of outcomes. My conveyance is that even when you think you are simply following the logical maxim of choice and consequence, the end result is never independent of an a priori moral system. Indeed, the very act of deciding the choose events in a game requires the presence of such a system, because practically speaking there is no way to offer the player every choose event imaginable.

 

To make it concrete, consider the following example:

 

The PC finds a torture victim in a dungeon.

 

He is allowed to:

 

?

??

???

...

 

The result of <X> is:

 

? -> ___

?? -> ___

??? -> ___

...

 

I argue that how you choose to fill in the blanks is a function of your moral compass, even when you think that you are just roleplaying the characters.

 

I would argue it is not the designers (personal) moral compass but the compass of the theme/story they have decided to portray that leads to their choice of options to offer you altho different writers working on different sections may skew the theme/story towards their own take on the theme/story which may differ from others to some degree (likely a small one as I assume they are managed (or possibly edited) well enough to keep them all on the same page most of the time.)

 

Ideally, that is the case, and that's what I was arguing - a designer ought to know that not having a thematized moral compass is equivalent to having a personal / random / generic moral compass, which results in weaker design. In the same way that the events of a plot are not arbitrarily selected for narration in a novel, so the same holds for the choices in a game.

There are doors

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Ideally, that is the case, and that's what I was arguing - a designer ought to know that not having a thematized moral compass is equivalent to having a personal / random / generic moral compass, which results in weaker design. In the same way that the events of a plot are not arbitrarily selected for narration in a novel, so the same holds for the choices in a game.

 

Not really sure what you mean by "weaker design" or how you've proven that such a thing would result from not having a "morality bar" and furthermore a morality that is personal and up to player interpretation is by no means random or generic. I don't think you're really understanding my offering here or at least I'm not understanding your argument against it. I'm saying that individual npcs would react based on their personalities and your actions, there is nothing arbitrary there, just the opposite in fact. The only real difference between this and the typical good-evil system is that you would see more realistic characters and you wouldn't have to worry about only saying renegade/paragon options in order to get red eyes/a better complexion.

Edited by jezz555
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Just throwing this question to the air, why does everyone seem to prefer "gray" morality choices and keeps bringing up The Witcher as the shining example of it? Is it because they think that it's more mature and realistic?

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I'd say the answer to that question is kind of like the answer to "who's the sucker in this poker game?"*

 

*If you can't tell, it's you. ;)

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I tend to favour the meta-ethical moral relativism view - which basically answers those questions with a "no" - I don't like black and white choice - It's all about shades of grey for me.

 

If there is no black and white then there must be one uniform shade of grey. Everything is the same doesn't sound very relative to me. If there are shades of grey then something are close to black and something are closer to white then yes? So therefore there is black and white. So...you point is entirely lost on me.

 

Can you give an example of a game that had a morality system you liked.

 

Generally in D&D doing good things for others was considered good and hurting others for your own ends was considered evil. At least that is what I could gather, more altruism versus selfishness than anything else.

Edited by Brannart
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The reason why most RPGs are black/white and have that "physiognomy of evil" is the D&D alignment system, which doesn't really have shades of grey when it comes to evil. Yes, you have those shades with neutral and chaotic/lawful, but it's not the same as in The Witcher for example. The good and evil conflict is stupid anyways, I think what's better is to give the player guilt-free choices on which the player can reflect without feeling that "Oh, an ethics twist!" like in most Star Trek: TNG episodes. I feel that many RPGs put guilt into any decision subtextually so people can never mess up what they do.

 

So I should have choices that produce no emotional responses in me? How...um...compelling?

 

'I want a completely emotionless dry game where no themes of morality play a part'

 

That cannot be what you are getting at but I cannot piece this one together.

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Or to go on a rampage and wipe out entire cities. Thats not evil its lunatic :devil:

 

There are all sorts of very rational reasons to wipe out entire cities. History suggests once you wipe out a couple the amount of fighting you have to do going forward is pretty dramatically reduced.

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