This is Faith in Play #14: Wickedness, for January 2019.
In discussing Dungeons & Dragons® alignment, as we began last May with True Religion and continued looking at that which the game calls “good” in Goodness, it is important to remember that each alignment is something in which people actually believe. That becomes a problem when we turn our attention to “evil,” because we tend to stereotype it in cartoonish ways, with villains who are depraved and monsters that are sadistic. In so doing, we reassure ourselves that we are not evil, because we are not like that. Yet in defining that which is the polar opposite of “good” or beneficent, the game has something far more subtle, far less heinous, in view. Evil is embraced as a belief by perfectly sane sound reasonable people, not just Cthulhu cultists and reclusive Shakespearean witches. It is something people—even respected famous people—believe to be the way the world is and how we ought to respond within it. In fact, if you examine yourself carefully, you might discover that you yourself are aligned “evil,” or at least have some significant aspects in your true beliefs that reflect an “evil” world view. Read more
This is Faith in Play #6: True Religion, for May 2018.
In the earliest versions of Dungeons & Dragons™, the original role playing game from which all others (including those electronic games that call themselves “RPGs”) are descended, there was a rules section known as alignment. Many players did not understand it; many gamers did not use it; it was often badly abused. However, I think it was one of the best and most important parts of the game, and I often defended and explained it.
I am going to make the perhaps rather absurd claim that I am a recognized authority on the subject of alignment in original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™. I know, that’s ridiculous. However, I am also going to prove it. When Gary Gygax was promoting his Lejendary Journeys role playing game, he placed on his web site exactly two links to pages related to Dungeons & Dragons™ One was to my Alignment Quiz, which had already been coded into an automated version by a Cal Tech computer student and translated into German. The other was my page on choosing character alignment in my Dungeons & Dragons™ character creation web site. He apparently believed I had a solid understanding of the issues.
So big deal. I’m an expert in a game mechanic concept that isn’t even used by most of the few people who still play that game. However, even if you don’t use it, don’t play that game, I think alignment is important to understand, because ultimately the character alignment was the real religious beliefs of the characters in the game world. Read more
This is Faith in Play #3: Javan’s Feast, for February 2018.
Have you ever been in a game in which a character in the game did something that impacted all the players at the table? It happened to me once.
Well, it probably has happened to many of us. It happens sometimes when one player crosses a line, bringing something into a game that makes everyone uncomfortable, such as a rape or graphic slaughter scene; or when a player gets the idea that because his character is a thief the other characters are not going to be offended if he cheats them and steals from them, and they realize this. However, have you ever been in a game where the action of a character had a positive impact on the gaming group?
I have such a story. Read more
Role playing games take us to other worlds, other times and places, some which were, some which might have been, some which yet might be, and even some that could not, as far as we understand, be. Because of this, they also challenge us at times to wrestle with answers to questions of morality that are not our own. In an age in which it was common, was polygamy wrong in the eyes of God? Would it be wrong for a human to eat an intelligent creature who is not human, given that it was as intelligent as a human but truly not related in any way that would make that cannibalism? Issues are raised in our games at times that don’t come up in our lives, because we don’t live in those worlds; yet we manage to find answers to these questions, and so come better to understand our own moral values.
Slavery is one of the more difficult and more common issues that arise in our games. Read more
I am often confronted in games by what I can only describe as foolishness on the part of the characters. Players often state that their characters are doing things that no sane person would even consider doing; and they, the players, have the nerve to get upset when their foolishness reaps its rewards.
Recently someone I know only as a screen name on an Internet communications program was bemoaning the disaster that had occurred at his most recent game. One of the players was running a Barbarian under current Dungeons & Dragons™ rules, and had stated the character alignment as Chaotic Neutral. Read more