Friday, August 18, 2017

Don't You Dare Play an Evil Character in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

A controversy charred the pages of Dragon Magazine in the summer of 1984. In issue #89, author and contributing editor Katharine Kerr wrote a long opinion piece on the evil of running "evil campaigns" in fantasy role-playing games. Kerr wrote that "there are too many arguments against playing evil campaigns for me to review all of them here" and so she focused on the psychological harm that these games inflict on their participants: "I maintain that spending all that time pretending to be evil is dangerous to the players themselves." Her point was that playing a villain warps your personality by normalizing violent behaviour and eroding your natural sense of compassion. She even included a story about "a gamer I'll call Bob" who embarked on an evil campaign that left him and his friends "emotionally and morally calloused".

Author Katharine Kerr
This touched a nerve. In subsequent issues, Kerr's polemic against evil campaigns was strenuously debated in letters and articles. One letter began "I am sure that I am not alone when I say that Katharine Kerr's article about evil PCs left me both disturbed and contemplative. Her analysis truly frightened me into thinking that players who run evil characters have some serious emotional problems." Other letters were defensive and peevish. Some justified evil campaigns on the basis of psychology (they are an "outlet" for negative emotions) or realism (resort to harsh tactics is one well trodden path to power). In issue #91, one astute letter writer noted that even in a campaign with all good characters, one person is still obligated to take the role of the villain, namely the DM. This author goes one to ask if "the DM heading for the psychiatrist's couch?"

This debate kindled a broader discussion about alignment in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. AD&D, of course, strictly categorized all living beings into one of nine alignments based on the permutations of Good, Evil and Neutral on one axis, versus Lawful, Chaotic and Neutral on the other axis. Thus, in issue #93, one correspondent posed a series of questions about whether this alignment system is based on a medieval European morality or a "20th century, Judeo-Christian, American morality". Actually, that's rather a good question. Dragon Magazine answered with articles on "The Neutral Point of View" in Issue #99 and a plea for a less black-and-white approach to alignment in "For King and Country" in Issue #101.

What to make of this brouhaha? Well, let me start by saying that I've got a lot of time for Katharine Kerr. Besides being an accomplished author, she wrote one of my favourite magazine articles of all time, a thoughtful breakdown of medieval army logistics called "An Army Travels on its Stomach" (in Dragon #94). So I don't want to dismiss this dispute as a simple matter of hyper-morality. Rather, I think Kerr's article and the aftermath were the product of a special point in time.

The most striking part of the whole debate is how seriously people took AD&D. It seems that in the 1980's, the imaginary world of the role-playing game cut much closer to the bone than it does in our more jaded and ironic present. Reading Kerr's article and all the responding letters conveys an impression that the gaming sessions of the mid-1980's were viscerally linked to one's personality and outlook on life. What happened on the gaming table mattered, and said something about you as a person. In this sense, there was a thinner barrier between the realm of fantasy and the world of reality. (Incidentally, the muddled boundaries between the real world and the imaginative realm of 1980's D&D players is something captured well in the period piece Stranger Things.)

One thing that lent spice to the debate about evilness was the moral panic that engulfed Dungeons and Dragons during this time. I still remember the mistrust with which teachers and administrators at my school regarded D&D in the wake of movies like Mazes and Monsters (1982) or 60 Minutes special in 1985. While anyone with a shred of familiarity with AD&D knew that it wasn't a portal to demonic possession or mental illness, the controversy around the game jangled everyone. Thus, a conversation about evil PCs had higher stakes in 1984 that it does now. In fact, I don't think that sense of heightened concern wasn't as bad even a couple years before --  for example, in 1982, Dragon published a playful article about playing an evil character and there was no blow-back or debate ("How to Have a Good Time Being Evil" by Roger E. Moore in Issue #45).

It's also important to put the "evil campaign" dispute in perspective. At the same time that Kerr and company were fighting over morality and psychological health, an equally acerbic debate was going on in Dragon Magazine... about how to properly calculate falling damage in accordance with Newtonian physics. This argument also spanned several issues and engendered withering criticism. (My favourite line: "While I admire the detail of research and reasoning in Stephen Innis' article, I think he's made an error by comparing the proportionate weight of a dwarf expanded to six-foot stature to that of a six-foot human.") Which is to say, flame wars were a part of gaming culture long before the rise of the internet.

The only thing that truly troubles me about the 1984 controversy is that one one mentioned the most important and obvious part of evil characters: however evil they may be, they never actually see themselves on the wrong side.

I bring all this up for two reasons. First, I love travelling back in time and seeing how attitudes towards our hobby have changed, even within my lifetime. And second, I want to introduce you to my own evil campaign...  

In the meantime, do you think there is any problem with playing evil characters? Does that question seem too naive to even ask it?


  1. I played an evil character in our last campaign. I did so for story reasons though, not as a license to be a jerk. I wanted to play a character that I was interested and that I thought the others in the party would have fun playing with.

    I played him LE, and as if he knew he was unabashedly selfish and egotistical, but not evil as such. He just wanted to keep his options open. He followed the letter of the law and he was a hit. The party clashed, but it was all in good fun. They were, after all, his friends and he cared about them. But he was a jerk, and he loved every minute of it. He had a reason to be in the party and a vest interest in their success. That, I believe, is why it worked so well.

  2. I've always been a paladin at heart. I like to think I have quite some imagination but although I can imagine pretty wild nasty things as a GM I just can't get myself to do anything beyond chaotic good or lawful neutral at worst.
    The dark paladin path has always intrigued me and I do find lawful evil characters to be the most interesting ones (Darth Vader strikes me as a lawful evil) but in the end. I've tried to play chaotic neutral characters (that's as far as I'll go) and it still leaves me with moments of unease...

    1. Vader's only Lawful Evil until he flies off the handle, at which point he temporarily becomes Chaotic Evil...

    2. If you are talking about the moments of rage when he kills underlings or when he turns on the emperor... I can still see those as LE because according to his ethics those beneath him in station exist for only one reason as instruments of power. Killing one that failed has no more importance than discarding a broken tool.

      Likewise the attempt to recruit luke and overthrow the emperor also adheres to the traditions of the sith where there is always 2... the master and the apprentice... lastly in his betrayal of the emperor he follows an even higher "law." The loyalty a father has for his son...

      Lastly, no single act is a change of alignment in and of itself... alignment is the pattern by which people conduct themselves...

  3. Do I see a problem with it? No. Do I have any interest in playing an evil character? No.

    I think of myself as a moral person, and I have no fun playing an asshole, I really don't.

    However, while not for me, if you go down that route I think you need to do an "evil campaign", where all the players are evil. My worst experiences as a GM and a player happened when one of the players plays an evil character, and thus usually f*** with the other players. It's not fun.

    My only exception : I once played in a "Superhero" campaign where we played a Vilain syndicate. The campaign didn't last that long, but it was fun. But then again we played "Batman 66" type vilains rather than "Red Skull/Nazis" types. Robbing a bank and vying for world domination can be fun, killing and torturing people is another thing entirely.

  4. First off, much respect to the author. As a younger player (25), the historical perspective of ADnD in the 80s was really eye-opening. I think the question is certainly worth asking, as the it really probes how we choose to play the game in general. The answer depends on why people are choosing to play an evil campaign, I suppose. I've been in games where jerks choose to play evil characters because they want to freedom to be assholes in game like they are in real life. On the other hand, DnD is a storytelling game, and evil characters played to add flavor and diversity can add a lot to the game. My mom played an evil assassin/rogue type character back in ADnD's heyday in the 80s that stole from the party and was overall underhanded and shady. She is a very kind and compassionate person, but she enjoyed adding that story dynamic to the party, and when the party caught on and killed her character for the thefts, she laughed it off and just made a different one. I think it's up to the DM's judgment to decide who has the maturity and RP chops to play an evil character that would actually add something to the party. That also extends to playing total evil campaigns, where the DM has to have the judgment to recognize if the group is mature enough to be a completely evil party.

  5. Presumably people play RPG's with their actual friends, who they know pretty well and are comfortable with... right? You should at least have a general idea what everyone's comfortable with and even what might "trigger" somebody who's present.

    I haven't gamed since I was a teenager, and I have a distinct memory of another player once trying to convince me to make my character do something truly awful (sexually assault an NPC, believe it or not :O ), which I simply refused. Pretty much took all the fun out of that session. I think even roleplaying something a lot less taboo still has to be done *very* carefully...

  6. I play GURPS these days, which has no alignments, butbyou can build a character with unpleasant personality traits. Some of them I suggest players don't use because it makes them annoying to play around. Back in the day I ran a 1e game where my players all had evil characters and were becoming avatars of assorted lower plane entities. None of us appeared damaged for playing maurauders and cartoony evildoers.

  7. PC's are pretty nonchalantly evil at baseline.....seeking out creatures in their homes/lairs and killing and looting them. Murder Hobos is truly an apt description of most gaming groups.

    I feel like there is a moral panic ever time games expand their horizons into morally dubious areas. Think about complaints about first person shooters, sniper scoped head shots, grand theft auto, etc, etc.

    The biggest issue with playing 'evil' at the table is that it usually ends up with PCs killing one another. I personally like having team solidarity. I do find player-player violence is a good way to enforce norms (i.e. people 'stealing' from the party shouldn't be protected for retribution, nor forced to share).

    Thanks for sharing this historical peek. Your point about flamewars seems amusingly right on the mark.

  8. Oh, I played rpg's a long time ago ..:( Friends prefer battles with miniatures now.

  9. The idea that ones character reflects, both outwardly and inwardly on the inner workings of the players moral psyche, rather than ad-libbing the role as a bit-part actor in a b-movie might do, seems to stem from an earnestness that is almost completely missing from contemporary gaming.

    It puts me in mind of the non-violent use of weapons in the D&D cartoon, of a similar vintage, may be it originates from TSRs parental instincts whilst marketing to increasingly younger demographic. But then there is that edge of giving games gravitas beyond being whimsical pop-culture pastimes.

    I don't think that sense of earnestness was equally spread throughout gamerdom either. I can't think of the letters pages or articles of White Dwarf containing outrage against "evil" (the role of women in cheesecake art and pseudo-medieval society is another matter), and I don't recall anything in the zines I have access to either.

    As others mentioned, as long as having 'evil' written on a character sheet isn't used as an excuse to break the social contract with other players then it's all, erm. good.

  10. I have only ever once played in an extended campaign with a party of evil PCs. We were on a huge quest to retrieve an ancient magic sword holy to our evil deities that had been "hidden away forever" by some Paladins or something. One of the PCs was even carrying the demon child of her patron. It was a remarkably tight party until we actually got to the point of retrieving the sword. We all went Boromir-wants-the-ring on each other and in the gore-stained aftermath there was only survivor of a party of about six. It was a brilliant ending to a bunch of thoroughly horrible individuals.

    1. See, that sounds like fun, a thought provoking turn on the standard "good questing party". It might not even be that different at times because monsters and hostile NPCs are going to be a problem no matter what your morals are.

  11. 84 was about the time I played my only overtly evil character. I found the mindset hard to play and have never bothered to try again.
    As far as the article goes, a few people outside of gaming were trying to make a great stink about D&D in order to exercise a hecklers veto over our enjoyment. Their children, genetic and spiritual, pursue other targets today.
    In hindsight the article appears to be a rather clumsy attempt to spin the issue to make TSR look better.
    The only alignment I've ever tried to ban in a campaign is Narcissistic Greedy. But that's the player's alignment, rather than the character's

    1. I think you're spot on; the article was probably meant as a Cover Your Ass maneuver rather than something meant earnestly.

      "You're right, there's some bad parts of our game, namely all those role-playing evil-aligned PCs. For shame on them, but not us we're all about fun."

  12. I don't think evil campaigns are necessarily inherently bad, or wrong, or that they shouldn't exist. But I personally am not really interested in them. I think the closest I could come to a truly evil campaign might be a ship of pirates, maybe a band of rouges/bandits, something of that nature. But many evil campaigns seem to lead players into the mindset of pure unadulterated evil like that of a liche. Nothing is sacred, no one is safe. Even pirates, and brigands are loyal to, and care about something. I would have a hard time Gming for a "Rape, Pillage, Destroy" type of evil campaign simply because I do not enjoy spending my leisure time with my friends dealing with those topics.

  13. Saying people who play evil characters in AD&D have to watch out or else it will affect them is like saying no actor should ever get typecast as evil characters because they'll go evil. It's a fallacy that has been proven wrong by plenty of psychological studies. The fact that Dragon magazine even published such an article without requiring the author to provide proof is ridiculous.

  14. Interesting. I don't think the gaming group I was in ever took things so seriously. I role played mostly 1980-1986 and I feel like most of us essentially played ourselves as character X rather than roleplaying a LG Paladin is that makes sense. If I really think about it I was mostly a CN or CG fighter type or maybe NG on occasion. i think one of the fallacies that "Evil" players fall into is that "Evil" means jerk and contrarian. I only remember one specific game of Boot Hill where we collectively felt dirty after murdering a farmstead as bandit types. Otherwise our evilness was mostly just stupid teenage boys picking fights with town guards and stealing stuff. The whole, my soul is in peril never occurred to us. I will say that, although some of the stuff we did I would definitely not tolerate in an adult group I think it was just the kind of dumb naive stuff young boys get up to sometimes. I don't think it necessarily turns them into social deviants. They said the same thing about Rap and Video games at the time as well.

  15. Well, I don't know how it was in the 80s, but most of the "Good" characters I've played alongside (mine included) commit actions that could be considered "callousing" or "morally reprehensable." All those dark elves you mindlessly slaughtered because "well they're dark elves"? They probably had families. Those goblins you killed after asking for information? Did they deserve that? Is there a truly evil race? What are the implications of that? (Goes into philosophical spiral)

    Sometimes I wonder if good characters are worse than the evil ones...

  16. Will no one think of the gamemasters! They are expected to play evil characters all the time! 8)

    Actually my biggest argument against playing evil characters is that they generally so petty in their evilness. Where are the grand schemes? Where does the world relax after they have been beaten that makes everyone feel better and that The Good has triumphed! It's just petty maliciousness. Or being a jerk.

    Actually it reminds me a lot that a lot of what modern D&D players call neutral or selfish behaviour was actually considered Chaotic behaviour in first edition Chivalry and Sorcery. Their alignment system was an attribute from 1 to 20 that was associated with a descriptor (a normal game would roll 3d6 for the attribute, a game with a pronounced presence of Good & Evil would roll 1d20, or you could just choose).

    Actually I'm more concerned about players playing Good characters giving into equivocation and attempting to justify their actions. You only do that when you know what you are ding is wrong and you are trying to justify your actions to yourself and others. A proper good action shouldn't need to justify itself.

  17. I don't have much to say on the subject, other than I'm jealous of your players! If you're ever starved for new D&D content check out the Dungeon Master's Bloc podcast. It's funny to me how often this topic pops up.

  18. Yeah. Player characters are total monsters given another perspective. James Raggi's comments about "heroes" being psychopaths fits well here.

    My players tend to want to do the "right" thing, except when a character pisses them off or when they can get away with being greedy.

    I think it's something of an outlet. Players can be more noble and ignoble than in real life. Fantasy is fantasy because it is in important ways what reality isn't. Part of that is moving outside of what you normally consider your self to be. Part of that territory is darker than usual, part of it lighter.

  19. I don't mind players being evil, but I find it tend to disrupt a long term campaign. Inevitably it seems to degenerate into backstabbing among the PCs. Great fun in Paranoia, not so much in D&D except as a short term thing.

    The same thing is true when a player makes a PC that is annoying on purpose (but I put that 5 in Charisma!). Why the hell would the other players hang out with him? You can make him someone's brother or something, but it still can be disruptive, especially when someone wants to roleplay their 5 charisma in EVERY NPC interaction. I don't usually have these kinds of problems in my normal group, but I've DM'd for enough one-offs at my FLGS over the years to know I wouldn't invite certain players to join my campaign.

    As far as being harmful to players, I just don't see it. If you have a player delighting in slaying kobold children I don't think rolling up an evil RPG character is the problem...

  20. I will occasionally play evil characters, but usually Lawful-Evil ones who are willing to do terrible things for the right reasons and have little concern for side ripples that do not affect them. Pure dark Utilitarianism. If they have to consign a village to die to lure in the dragon that threatens the kingdom? Lets tie them all up, kill the dragon and then go for pancakes. Undead plague feeding off the unwashed masses threaten to spill out of a contained area via numbers and the people are logistically impossible to move? If there are no bodies living or dead then the problem can't spread. They all see themselves as the people who "do what needs to be done" and the heroes of their own stories.I've played a few true monsters in Vampire LARPs as well. It can be fun and a bit of a catharsis. It can also lead to some interesting inter party introspection when the LE and the LG character both immediately agree on a solution to a problem.

    That being said, evil characters are morally exhausting to the point that I am usually glad when circumstances put them down. The mind set does eat on you, especially if they somehow last far beyond their intended frame. You have to warp your thoughts and morals purposefully.

  21. It is the dungeon master that defines what is good and what is evil. In my own games, this may sound strange, but I base it on Pro Wrestling. Evil appears to be strong until someone stands up to them, then their true self becomes apparent. You take away the chaotic evil's enforcers and press him to a fair fight, he's going to grovel, cheat, and whine.

    To me, evil consumes itself. To keep players good, one has to make them feel like heroes, and heroes inspire the people. Reputation in everything. I'm also a history nut, so the true lines of good and evil are a bit blurry, they are not held to modern standards. Lawful Good does not mean Lawful Stupid. There is the easy way out, then there is the heroes way, and heroes slip. They mess up. That is what makes D&D so intriguing. I will set up little tests of alignments, if the players fail that may trigger an alignment change, but usually I just make them feel like jerks, and move on.

    Heroes are always needed at my table, you can play any alignment you want, but there will be consequences for decisions made during the game. If the players don't act like a team, they are going to die. That's just the way it is.

  22. I remember back in the day my cousin had to put the D&D stuff through the players letter boxes in a plain envelope as their parents were so concerned about them playing D&D!!

    God knows what they would make of all the latest video games and such like ;0)

  23. Emirkol is a cleric on the grounds that spell looks like finger of death. Otherwise its a ray spell from the magicuser list, or perhaps a magic missile variant (the autohit always useful).

  24. I can sum this whole argument up quite easily.......its a game! Enjoy it as a break from life and it's stresses......don't develop stress within the game as well! After my twopenneth I'm back to head an evil world engulfing waaaaggghhhhh.....😁

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  26. I'm an actor also. I have portrayed:

    Jonathan Brewster (3 times)
    Harry Brock
    Ebenezer Scrooge

    And I must say they have not warped my personality one bit. I dont think playing an evil character will, either.

  27. Geez, healthy players know how to distinguish "fantasy" from "reality". Let them play and be done with it.

  28. I played evil thieves and assassins in the 1990's. It didn't do anything to me mentally. I didn't steal anything when I was away from the table. Nor as someone that played an assassin did I kill or wish to kill anyone for money. Or even for "the joy" of it away from the table. In fact I played things that were actually far from my irl character and personality. And I NEVER played a caster of any kind because I in fact was practicing witchcraft irl. So I disagree with kerr's side of the debate.

  29. To be honest, I think WotC should be more worried about the moral implications of today's play style and rule set that TSR ever had to be.

    The move to allowing almost anything as a playable race but still allowing complete complete freedom of choice in regards to alignment plays against the tropes that all goblins, kobolds, orcs, (insert race) are evil.

    It introduces a moral relativism, which, while it may be more "realistic" calls into question the motivation of the party in ways that the absolute morality of "all goblins are evil and always will be" never would.

    Now one must consider how many of those goblins might grow up and be decent individuals if given a chance. Do you commit wholesale slaughter as would be appropriate under TSR morality or is the good course of action to politely ask that goblins raiding the local farmstead be turned over. And then if "forced" to kill the adults what do you do with the young. Leave them for the wolves or to grow and once again start killing innocents in a few years. Or take them back to society in the hope that they can be "reformed."

    I can see the PBS special on the "lost generation" of goblins now.

    Then, what if goblins truly do have a genetic predisposition for evil. What are the consequences of introducing dozens of serial killers into a town or city.

  30. The Alignment System is archaic trash. It was erroneously based on the far more nuanced and complicated writings of Michael Moorcock, who always considered the grey areas, the parts that bleed into the "other" -- undermining our concept of moral and ethical purity. We call the "other" "EVIL" because it makes us feel good about the evil we do in order to destroy that which we *dislike*. That's what alignment comes down to: Taste. When a "Christian Paladin" goes on a campaign to liberate the Holy City from the "Muslim Paladins" -- who is lawful? Who is good?

    It's all a friggin' matter of taste. There is no INNATE good, there is no INNATE, OBJECTIVE evil. Law, Neutrality, Chaos? All ways we look at the world which are ALL completely bogus. Chaos = confusion, again, taste. Law = safety, order, organization. Again, taste. We look at the world today and we see so much order that we actually arrive at total chaos: I mean, how much more orderly can we get than with the globalization of capitalism? All the nations united under the completely "ordered rules" of capitalism -- a truly Lawful Neutral program, that doesn't care about morality, only the "NATURAL ORDER" of things. And what does it lead to? War. Dissent. Insurrection -- a call for freedom FROM the CHAOS of a NEW WORLD ORDER.

    Alignment is bullshit -- it makes ZERO sense. As was noted, nobody thinks they're "evil." But the truth is deeper than this: THERE IS NO EVIL, THERE IS NO GOOD. THERE IS NO CHAOS, THERE IS NO LAW. All of these things are creative abstractions that seek to neutralize personal anxiety by codifying and concertizing the abstract and subjective.

    Seriously, there needs to be an end to the Alignment system. It is a bullshit tool that serves no good purpose other than pushing E. G. Gygax's fantastic notion of "right and wrong." A personal notion. A very, very flawed notion that TOO MANY GAMERS have carried over into their lives.

    Consider the person who calls themself a "paladin at heart" -- what KIND of paladin? Of course the "only kind" -- Lawful Good. Oh? Lawful Good you say? So do you serve Empire? Do you serve Good? If so, what kind of Empire, what KIND of Good? White-person idea of Law and Good, which typically is STATUS QUO and is HORRENDOUS on minorities? That represents for MANY people something more akin to Lawful Evil, or even Chaotic Evil, neither of which make any sense.

    Frick, for Hell's sake, Lawful Good makes no sense. Which takes priority? Good? Then follow the law even when it is truly unjust? What is justice -- obviously we are equating it with "good," but WHOSE justice, and justice for WHOM? Never all. Then we placate ourselves by saying, "well, it's the good of the majority" -- which, can still be "evil" as hell. (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?)

    I think the ENTIRE alignment system should be gutted. People DO "learn" from D&D. We learn from literature, and we learn from film, and we learn from music. Art and creativity are definitely seen as an important parts of our growth and education. So of course we should take this seriously.

    And we should SERIOUSLY, PHILOSOPHICALLY AND POLITICALLY examine the wholly wrong-minded alignment system.

    Can we have any sense of compassion for cultures that see nothing wrong with cannibalism? Is cannibalism evil? Is it chaotic? Try to pin your opinion on the matter down on it, and all you are doing is trying to lay claim to the entire moral and ethical compass for ALL human beings, which in itself is an act of aggression. It is an act of othering and of cultural imperialism.

  31. I don't care for playing evil characters 99.5% of the time, but it's my decision. I like Katharine Kerr, but I have to disagree.

  32. I think the whole debate is really pretty hobbled by the artificial and stilted portrayal of good and evil in fantasy games. Most settings, stories, characters and groups are stuck on a very black and white and superficial moral continuum. How common are really intentionally, knowingly evil people on life? Aside from a few sociopaths and serial killers, I would say not. Further, I would suggest that many self -identified 'good' players wouldn't seem so in any kind of nuanced setting or to outside observers. The 'good' in these games tends towards a totalitarian, fascist, meritocracy of violence and purity obsession. To most good players, there is the good and the bad, and these are fixed, immutable, essentialist, unnuanced categories. And evil deserves a violent end and no attempt at understanding or compromise. I'm sure if Hitler played D&D he would have rolled a lawful good character.

    So to really get into this debate, you have to ask yourself does fantasy even offer a realistic or nuanced view of good and evil? I would say it generally doesn't, it sticks to a mythical or archetypal one, and is not a good yardstick for true human behaviour.

  33. i had those issues and reread them so much i can still find specific issues first time but dont remember this or her articles much, i guess i was getting into stormbringer still the most horrible game ive ever played makes carcosa tame

  34. I played an evil character in a good aligned party and got away with it. (The DM knew better, but there were no Alignment penalties for my class, so he let my actions stand) I told the other players I was Chaotic Neutral, which explained why I mercilessly slaughtered any enemies that crossed us, but I was always loyal and a boon to the party overall. Yes, I kept pushing the cleric to the front lines ahead of me, but he had the best armor of all of us, and we were tired of him staying back in the tree line firing off crossbow bolts... ...besides, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, and he always lived through melee combat, so I don't see why he complained so much. ;)

    Behaviour towards other Players is a false detail of D&D alignment, and the single most common detail that a lot of players fall back on, and EXPECT to see NPCs exhibit as well. I've played with more than one player who expected Evil characters to be jerks and backstab at the drop of a copper, and Chaotic characters to act in such completely random actions despite indications of insanity by way of any Int or Wis score less than 12, and that is utter bullshit.

    Smart & evil characters would stay loyal to the party until the last possible moment, using them for their resources and sympathy at worst, or possibly even do good things for the people he or she considers to be family or friends at least (the party) relative to the evil/chaotic things they do to their enemies that crosses them at best.

  35. The whole moral scare of ADnD is comparable to the same thing many of us young'ins are going through starting with Doom (due to the Columbine Massacre) and onwards through the '10s' "violence/racism/misogyny in Video Games" BS. The only difference is that the videogame scare keeps being perpetuated due to videogames becoming more mainstream, to the point of eclipsing older media.

    People will find something to complain about either as a way of getting attention, or to trying and force others to change their viewpoint to their own. Having chaotic and evil elements in a game gives the player a chance to play with choices and viewpoints without needing to experience them directly. Some will say this "normalizes" the action, making it seem like it can be done with no ill effects. But any DM worth their salt, or game worth its price, will make those actions have consequences. Likewise if role-playing "evil" things is bad, why is it used in psychiatry?

    I'd argue that not being exposed to espoused evil or chaos makes one weaker as a whole. Who shows greater ethics: someone who knows they could steal and get away with it but chooses not to, or someone who cannot comprehend the act to begin with? Being exposed to chaos/evil doesn't mean you have to play as an evil aligned PC; you may have to deal with NPCs stealing or lying to you, or being faced with moral decisions where the "good" option could end with the death of your character. Playing Chaos/Evil in itself is interesting as it forces you into trying to understand how and why someone would do those "evil" things to begin with. There's many things that we may tell ourselves is good when in fact they really aren't; being able to see those "evil" motivations in our own actions can help us understand how and why greater "evils" can occur.

    You could contrast this to many things being done in our own world right now which are claimed to be just and good. eg. Islamic terrorists are "good" within their own viewpoint as they are fighting in the name of their God to bring about a morally better world under their God's laws. And there's definitely more radical parts of our own society that considers them freedom fighters instead of terrorists.

    The biggest problem is that there's some truth in this (eg, drone strikes and continual destabilization done by Western powers in the Middle East). If this was a campaign, imagine a "good" human community under continuous attacks by an orcish horde. The campaign follows your good party of NPCs as it travels into the heart of Orcish territory and their killing of its central leadership, throwing the horde into disarray. The "good" empire then exploits the new power vacuum in order to reclaim the land that was once theirs. In itself, this sounds kind of LoTR-ish, doesn't it?

    There are so many "evil" or ethically corrupt ideals that are pushed forward under the guise of "good." The idea that a person should be protected completely from "evil" is one such corrupt act. The inability to understand evil doesn't lead to a more ethical society, it leads to one that's more naive.