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Chaotic Evil characters - Input Junkie
April 22nd, 2010
06:20 pm

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Chaotic Evil characters
I have a notion that there's a bias against Chaotic Evil player characters because the easiest way to show you're Chaotic Evil is to attack someone in your party. On the other hand, there are easy ways to demonstrate other alignments without a hign social cost.

I'm not so much suggesting that CE characters are disliked as hypothesizing that they're more rarely played than other alignments. Am I right?

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From:lilairen
Date:April 22nd, 2010 10:35 pm (UTC)
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Honestly, I think it depends on your gamerset. The stereotypical Knights of the Dinner table hack and slashers are pretty CE. ("I waste the beggar with my crossbow!" "I dibs the tin cup!")
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From:kgbooklog
Date:April 22nd, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
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But "doesn't attack party members" is the definition of Lawful Good!

Seriously, anyone who role-plays in D&D is doing so in spite of the game mechanics. (Though I do like james_nicoll's "not provably evil" party.)
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From:sturgeonslawyer
Date:April 22nd, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
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When we played straight D&D we forbade players to have CE or CN ("the scum alignment") characters. Too disruptive.
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From:whswhs
Date:April 22nd, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I find Lawful Evil more detestable. The Chaotic Evil character is a solo entrepreneur who typically has a limited reach. The Lawful Evil character usually serves a larger authoritarian regime and his presence, especially in large numbers, enables the existence of large authoritarian regimes that do massive harm.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 12:23 am (UTC)
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Are you talking about the real world or gaming?
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From:whswhs
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
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Yes. In fact I am talking about the real world and gaming.

Strictly speaking, of course, there are no alignments in the real world, because good and evil are not actual forces that exist independent of the human mind; they are human judgments. But Good and Evil, Law and Chaos, are stylizations of things that exist in the real world. And if you translate them into the things they stylize, and think about how those things operate, I believe they operate as I have described. Given that, in running a fictional world, I would normally have it work similarly to the real world in certain ways, one of which would be the moral logic of human action; if I don't assume that I find it harder to create a narrative. (And, for example, I might find it hard to construct ingenious paradoxes where the moral logic of action leads to conclusions that conflict with common moral assumptions, yet make sense.)

Not that I use games that have alignments. But I've given them some thought. . . .
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From:redneckgaijin
Date:April 22nd, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
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How would you know someone was playing Chaotic Evil? Wouldn't they lie?

"Oh, er, that orphanage was, er, actually an unholy temple to the dark devourers. And all the priests were midgets. Really. Don't ask me to describe the unspeakable rituals they perform with a tetherball."
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From:kgbooklog
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:06 am (UTC)
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How would you know someone was playing Chaotic Evil?

Detect Evil
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From:holzman
Date:April 23rd, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
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"You all saw it: that orphanage attacked me." -- Richard the Necromancer from Looking for Group
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From:xiphias
Date:April 23rd, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
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It's truly annoying to attempt to play in a group with either CN or CE characters. A group needs to be held together by something, and Chaos is definitionally something that won't hold people together. The reason Chaotic Good characters escape the fate of being un-play-with-able is that Good can hold a party together. A Chaotic Evil character will only go along with a party as long as it is in their specific and personal self-interest -- and if they can see a way to sell out the party for a benefit, they will do so.

Chaotic Neutral characters are even worse: they will only go along with the party as long as they feel like it.

Neither of them has anything holding them as part of a group.

Neutral Evil characters are in the same boat as Chaotic Evil, but less so. A Neutral Evil character will go along with the group if it's in their personal best interest -- but a Chaotic Evil needs that "best interest" to be overwhelming in order to outweigh his or her individualistic, doesn't-play-well-with-others tendencies.

True Neutral, by rights, ought to be every bit as bad, but, in the D&D worlds, TN characters always hold some sort of special status and role -- something of being mediators and balancers -- and therefore, as long as the party is doing something which is associated with that role, the TN character can be part of the story.

LG, LN, LE, NG, and CG can all work as part of a group, either because of their respect for order and hierarchy, or because of their desire to work toward a common goal, or both.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
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I think your idea of Chaotic is a little different from mine-- I think of Chaotic as ranging from "does not play well in hierarchies" to "breaks things for the fun of it".

Even the extreme end of Chaotic can be consistent with Good if the things broken are pomposity and/or injustice.
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From:agrumer
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
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On the other hand, watching an all-Chaotic-or-Neutral-Evil group try to work up a marching order is pretty entertaining. Everyone wants to be in back!
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From:lilairen
Date:April 23rd, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
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Heh. My current character in my current D&D campain is CN. I actually have a journal entry about this, after we had a party near-split in which one of the CG characters abstained from a combat and my CN character resolved to only strike at things that attacked her first ....

(The characters who resolved to fight were LN, LG, and CG. The combat was between a nature guardian and the party, more or less, and the disinclined to fight characters were the druid and the nature-goddess-worshipping halfling.)
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
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/disagree/

Every D&D alignment can be played functionally and interestingly in a heroic party, when played by good and functional players. Goals aren't alignment -- and a party with a bunch of CN and evil characters can still hold together if players aren't dicks.

The fact that nonfunctional players will sometimes gravitate to certain alignment (and be dicks) isn't really a problem with those alignments, per se, so much that it's an issue with game structures that let players take their character as an excuse for the player's actions -- the players are still responsible for their actions.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
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How gaming works is about all the players who show up to game, not just the better players.
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
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This is why social association (and gaming is a style of association) is voluntary. For tabletop style 3-10 person F2F games, you've got a lot of choice in who you play with -- and "I don't play with jerks" is an entirely reasonable and manageable approach for many gamers.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
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You're right about gaming as any individual experiences it.

However, if you're looking at how gaming works in general, it's worth noting if some alignments are jerk magnets.
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
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Oh, absolutely. That doesn't make xiphias's overgeneralizations correct or excusable, though.
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From:richardthinks
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
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What everyone else said. My sense is that teenage boys go through a phase of all wanting to play chaotic evil ninja assassin badasses for about 3 years, at the end of which they have empirically tested the concept of a party of these and found it to be (a) non-functional and (b) no fun, after which they're often willing to try something else. Perhaps because D&D chaotic is a sort of thought experiment alignment, a sort of Hobbesian State of Nature theoretical construct that cannot exist in fact, I have never seen D&D chaotic characters work in the wild.

OTOH I can imagine a Moorcockian Chaotic party working well, inside a fairly rigid mission structure, since Moorcockian Chaos turns out to actually be very hierarchically ordered. Moorcockian True Neutrality could be really interesting if the characters operated at a low level of alignment investment/intensity and were considered unreliable outcasts by both major sides, or at high intensity as equal-opportunities terrorists, bent on maintaining balance using whatever means were necessary.
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From:richardthinks
Date:April 23rd, 2010 11:39 am (UTC)
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Good point - I've never played an MMORPG that featured alignment, or for that matter roleplaying to the extent that alignment would become an issue. I guess that means the games I did play in didn't have anything approaching a society, which means the default approach to playing them was CE...

So I've been out of that world for a while. Before I left I had a sense that the industry itself would have to go through an adolescent phase that would involve griefing everywhere, and of course there were always new adolescents coming into it, so there would always be games based around griefing, but that the potential existed, one day, for some games to emerge where griefing might become a minor issue. Has that day dawned?
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From:kgbooklog
Date:April 24th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
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I stopped paying for computer games over 10 years ago (Ultima 7 convinced me to stop paying full price, Planescape: Torment convinced me $5 is still too much). But from what I've seen in free CRPGs, the age of the target audience is still going down; it's as if you're supposed to stop playing RPGs once you hit puberty.

Which is why I was so surprised to find Avernum 6 had dialogue that lets my character actually act like an adult. I played the demo all the way through (took about 40 hr. and covered roughly 1/6 of the world map) even though I hated the interface.
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From:richardthinks
Date:April 23rd, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
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...there's also the small matter of there being no explicit model of action in D&D for chaos or evil, so attacking (or doublecrossing) fellow party members tends to happen for exactly the reason you state, sometimes because the player is worried they will be penalised for failing to roleplay their alignment otherwise.

I can't remember who it was said how interesting it might've been if TSR had ever built any adventures around the difference between good and evil. As it was, they were really just treated as tokens or brands.
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I suspect that CE is more frequently played than NE -- and maybe more frequent than LE as well, though LE is a fun alignment.

Actually, evil characters in general are a lot more common than good or neutral characters; it's much easier to engage in adventure when you have more or less the same goals (or the same enemies).
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm wondering if it's difficult to be LE if you aren't in an LE hierarchy.
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
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Doubt it. LE comprises the following concepts:

1. Selfish/Worth of sentient life/freedom

A lawful evil character favors himself and his goals over not harming others.

2. Authority/Law/Honor

A lawful evil character values honor, rules, and consistency.

So your typical snidely whiplash type villain is LE. So are a lot of other villains who value a set of rules that don't come down to individual choice, not to mention heroes who don't give a fig for individuals and their rights.
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From:mneme
Date:April 23rd, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
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Er... This should be "evil characters in general are a lot -less- common than good or neutral characters"
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