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Flow of power; struggle between good and evil

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Ever played ''good'' or ''evil'' in a ''rpg'' game? Ever wondered why there even is a distinction between the two? I mean, as ''good'' you pretty much end up killing just as much as ''evil'' does. And as ''evil'' the only ''evil'' thing you can do is kill... which is what ''good'' does, so why are you evil when you kill? So... when I thought of defining ''good'' and ''evil'' I came up with something simple like this: EVIL: Will do WHATEVER it takes to gain more power/fame/wealth/etc GOOD: Will NOT do anything that would harm others, unless it''s out of self-defense. (NEUTRAL: Will do whatever it takes to stay alive) For rpg games, I think the standard is still pretty much that it''s combat-orientated. Smart dialogue is still in the future (at least, that''s how it seems to be to me) and ''role-playing'' is just still out of the computer processor''s means. But, how is a ''good'' character going to succeed in a world where combat defines a character, without fighting others for personal gain? The most obvious answer is ''by performing quests''. Person A needs Item X. Go get it over there and return it for ''experience''. That usually pretty much sums up questing. Not too thrilling, compared to combat. Not thrilling enough I think to really have players prefer to play ''good'' instead of ''evil''. The ''evil'' side is pretty easy to take care of. Just place some bait out there and have them fight it. Evil is satisfied. But ''good''. Why would players want to play ''good''? Another thing that immediately pops up when the terms ''good'' and ''evil'' are mentioned, is the eternal struggle between those two. ''Evil'' wants to get rid of ''good'' so that it can live without fear of being hunted. ''Good'' want to get rid of ''evil'' because it''s ''the right thing to do''. It''s what makes them ''good'' and makes <them> ''evil''. So, how to get players to pick sides and actually fight in this holy war? Evil? Pretty easy. Just have them gain power whenever they defeat a ''good'' being. Maybe even a little more than when they kill just any being. Good? Tough. Do we give the character power for killing evil? Which is a little bit like ''if you find killing an offense, then how do you justify killing a killer?'' Should ''good'' gain power from killing, or should it just fight for the cause, merely because he believes evil should not be allowed to further torture the planet? But, if you don''t give ''good'' anything to fight evil, why would players want to play ''good''? Especially when ''evil'' seems to be so much easier to play and seems to give so many more rewards... Still, there are enough players that I''ve heard of, that do seem to think that they might want to play a rpg without actually having to fight their way to the top. They just don''t see how hunting for innocent wolves, killing them by the dozens and repeating that thousands of times with all sorts of monsters, is the highest amount of fun a rpg can give. One thing to make players want to play good, is of course the ''glory'' of being good. Another thing that would make someone want to play ''good'' is the fact of trust. A ''good'' player can trust another ''good'' player to not attack him. An ''evil'' player can not trust another ''evil'' player to not attack him, because that''s just part of being evil. Now, when using a system that grants experience to characters to show progress, here''s something that might be interesting to good players: Good players gain free experience. Every period of X they gain a certain amount of experience, without having to do anything. All they really have to do is just not kill anything if it''s not out of self defense. And at the same time, evil players LOSE experience every period of X. So to stay in power, evil players almost HAVE to go out and kill. (neutral players don''t lose or gain power) With this setup, evil can/has to concentrate on just being evil and killing whatever it can to gain power. And good can gain power and use that power to protect the innocent from the forces of evil. How fast does good gain free experience? Well, not all that fast. It should merely be a bonus to being good. If for example, a highly trained evil character can gain 1000 experience in an hour, a good character of the same level of power, might gain 100 free experience every hour (with the evil character losing 100 experience every hour). Evil is the way to fast and easy power. Just kill something and take its power. I''m still trying to work this idea out a little better, but just wanted to know your opinion on ''free experience''

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I think I see what you''re trying to do here. Good and evil as a force kinda how gravity and centrifugal force are. One pulls, the other pushes, they both balance out. If you''re trying to do a game about these two forces specificly, then your ideas here are like game mechanics which may certainly produce an intersting, quality game. So I''m probably a little OT with the rest of what I want to say.

When it comes to good and evil IMO I would be more inclined to define it:

EVIL: Actions which are not considered socially acceptable.
GOOD: Actions which are considered socially acceptable.
NEUTRAL: Selecting combinations of good and evil in such a way the individual can maintain self respect.

Of course, this isn''t perfect either. For example taking drugs isn''t particularly socially acceptable, but not necissarily evil.

The best game I''ve played that allows the player to choose between good and evil was Fallout2. The reward for playing your character as good or evil was simply that you could. And that there was something of a reputation you earned which affected how people treated you. It was by no means perfect, but the best I''ve played anyways.

The idea of free experience isn''t bad depending on what the game is supposed to be about and how it''s supposed to be played. I doubt it would work in a traditional RPG, but if there was a different aproach to it, it could work out.

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I''m thinking for a while to make a PLayer only MMORPG.
Some rules for the required rule parts and a setting encouraging roleplay.

However letting the player do whatever they want should be intersting, I think they''ll create guilds and villages...

In fact they''ll do something like reallity except they''ll be free to do whatever they want at any time without any porblem.

I thought of that to avoid the plot and what to do problem all MMORPG (in which R stands for RULE) don''t offer you anything to do except being asocial by creating the best character possible.
And when you got it ? you simply leave the game ?

I c your point, but I''ve no real solutions yet.
(I''m designing adventure and RPG for 1-6 players at the moment)

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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Have you played Baldur''s Gate II? It has a pretty cool good/evil/neutral system. If you create your character as a lawful good and you decide to kill some innocent people, your reputation will go down and people will start hiring assasins and bounty hunters to kill you. In contrast, if you create your character as a chaotic evil, everyone will pick fights with you, and you will be punished for performing good deeds. If your character is a true neutral and you go around helping people and performing good deeds all of the time, you will again suffer the penalty. The game is an RPG that actually has role playing.

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You need to look at it a bit more closely...Good people only kill the evil people **because the evil people would kill lots more innocent people**. The reason they''re good is because they''re protecting people who are...innocent.

It''s the concept of the death penalty (just something to think about...put away the flame throwers). If the Insane Murderous Wacko is dead he isn''t going to kill tons more people is he?

The only point I agree with is that
"For rpg games, I think the standard is still pretty much that it''s combat-orientated."
...a standard many wish to break. The skill web idea proposed before(by myself) solves this easily. There is no "experience" just specific experiences. Say...for a good cleric: In order to get better, he''s got to practice clerical magic; ie. Healing people, etc. Perhaps I''ll start a thread on this now...this time explaining the whole thing....

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JONNYFISH: I''m playing BG1 right now (+expansion). I started as a lawful good character (rep 20 now). The way D&D good/evil works is pretty well thought out I think (with the 9 different types, from lawful good to chaotic evil).

ANON: Well, the ''free ep'' idea comes from an idea I had where the earth itself is a lifeforce. There''s a certain magical force at its core, which moves outward to the surface. There, when it comes into contact with sunlight it creates life. This life grows and grows and it''s lifeforce becomes bigger and bigger. Some beings have discovered ways to extract this lifeforce from other beings, thereby increasing their own lifeforce. But, to do so, they have to kill the being.

Evil beings will just kill whatever they see in order to get more lifeforce. But, in a theory that is somewhat related to that Chaos-theory from Jurassic Park... life takes care of it in some way or another. Somehow, beings that take lifeforce from others have lifeforce flowing away from them back into the earth. If they don''t continue killing, they''ll eventually just die (which has an effect that''s not really desirable: evil beings will just kill more and more and more...).
Good beings on the other hand, somehow gain more lifeforce than neutral beings. This is because they''ve learned to live without taking lifeforce out of other beings. They don''t kill and don''t have to eat.

The whole idea would function in a setting where there are lots of players in a persistent world, giving them the choice to be an individual (neutral), fight for a just cause (good) or just kill, kill, kill (evil).

I think that that way you cover a lot of different types of players, giving each a chance to do what they want to do in a game.

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This is a really meaty subject, one that I will always love to tackle.
I'll try to provide my definition of good/neutral/evil, but the problem with this is Intent/Motivation vs. Action/Result. Ergo - Grey.

EVIL: Will do anything that will further themselves, to gain power/control/wealth, whatever their objectives. An evil character is self-centered to the extreme, not caring about ANYONE but themselves, or in rare cases, very few others than themselves. At least they have no interest in anyone who does not share their alignment. Evil characters will be unfettered by their consciences. A true evil character will in my opinion have little interest in material things unless those things allow him to further perform evil, self-gratifying acts. A true evil character will only be interested in killing/causing pain to others, whatever turns him on. Power/Wealth, what-have-you will only be important so long as it improves his ability to carry out his destructive, insidious plans. Outside of a fantasy novel or RPG/CRPG, a truly evil person is very hard to find.
'If they're dead, they can't thwart you.'

Which brings us to...

NEUTRAL: A neutral character is possessed by Motivations. He is not above killing for gain, bringing pain or death to innocents, so long as it furthers his goal or is driven by his motivation. Often these characters will consider themselves to be basically good, doing what they do for a higher cause, for the good of the many, or the greater glory of God or some such.

(Note: Evil characters will often feign motivation of this sort, mainly so others will follow them, or they can justify their misguided desires)

Neutral characters will have justifications they believe in, and while committing evil acts they console their conscience with 'good intentions' 'necessary evil' etc. Neutral characters will often consider themselves good, will be utterly convinced of it, even whilst they burn innocent villagers in their beds.
Often the distinction between neutral and evil is a simple good intention, combined with a necessary evil and a very bad result, while the difference between neutral and good is as simple as seeing things from another's viewpoint, and caring if you cause them harm. A neutral character may utilize cruel action to cause fear in the public, with the intention of reducing unrest within his realm. 'If they fear you, they will not cross you.'


GOOD: Good is the easiest to define, and perhaps the very hardest to be. A good character will truly care about others. He may have high ambitions, and good motivations backing them up just as a neutral character, but the difference is he will go out of his way, even unto death (in extreme cases) to prevent his ambitions from causing harm to the undeserving. A good character may be engaged in a constant struggle with his conscience and the world. Things he is forced to do that he deems unjust will sadden and pain him. He will struggle to make things right, or cower and wish they were, depending on his courage. He will care about his reputation as much as any other, but he will do what is right (defined by personal morality and conscience) above what is socially accepted, lawful or expedient. Good aligned characters will often stop short of doing something they find morally repulsive, even to one who deserves it. A good character is not above killing if that is necessary to preserve his life, the lives of those he cares about, undeserving innocents etc., however, he will search for other options if possible. He will feel remorse and wish to make amends for unjust actions he commits misguidedly, by accident or under duress. 'If they love you, they will follow you even unto death, because, in need, you would do the same for them.'

I do actually have a point, and ideas on the actual implementation of a system such as this within a game, but the post was getting too long so I’ll continue in another post and let you chew on this awhile.


"Two wrongs do not make a right; it usually takes 3 or more."

Edited by - Ratheous on January 25, 2001 5:04:39 PM

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My two cents:

If good gains power by just waiting around (they gain power while asleep, staring at a wall, etc, I presume) and loses power by killing, evil gains power by going on bloody rampages, but loses power over time, then what about the neutrals? They do not gain or lose power over time, but, how can they advance? Do they gain power as well by killing(in which case, a player wanting to either powermax or just slaughter away would choose the neutrals for obvious reasons), or are they stagnant? Will they ever advance, or are they just fodder for the evil killing machines?

In this particular case, it is probably better to take the highly polarised approach, and only offer good and evil with nothing in between.

Also, good would probably be in need of some sort of other balancing mechanism - or they''ll just get mowed down like the rest. Perhaps good characters would have some way of shaping this life energy that they gather to protect themselves?

I must say that this seems to focus the game more on killing than the traditional approach, unless I am misinterpreting what you have written. It seems very apocolyptic... Is this how the design is intended?

The idea for gaining experience over time regardless of behaviour is a very interesting one. Perhaps, if you took out the rampaging evil killing machines part - then you could actually eliminate the focus on combat with a little more design work. Players who went out seeking fights would be less likely to rewarded, because they would be risking their lives (you can''t advance at all, if you''re dead) and not gaining the benefit of "Oh I gained x experience because I killed this critter", because those who did not go out trying to kill would be gaining just as much, and not risking their lives as often. There would still have to be risks to make it interesting, but combat wouldn''t have to be the primary one, unless that''s what the player wanted.


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Good and Evil are subjective terms anyway. I enjoyed Fallout2''s system.
If you did something that would be considered ''good'' or ''helpful'' to the common folk, you got your karma raised.
If you did something that would be considered ''evil'' or ''harmful'' to the common folk, you got your karma dropped.
But the story works the same way either path you take.
Of course, its quite a surprise when you run your character with high karma, then you go looking for a hidden stash, and in doing so dig up nearly every grave in Golgotha.........

-Ryan "Run_The_Shadows"
"Doubt Everything. Find your own light." -Dying words of Gautama

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I haven''t quite worked it out yet, but the system I set up is all about that flow of power.

In the beginning the power flows FROM the earth to beings (in the beginning all beings were neutral)
When beings die, the power (it''s not really power as much as it is lifeforce) flows back into the earth.

But intelligent beings learned that they can sometimes prevent the lifeforce from flowing back into the earth, taking some of it for themselves.

Doing this interrupts the way nature was intended, and those that do will from then on be considered ''evil'' by the planet itself and no longer gain the lifeforce they used to (when they were neutral).

There is a fine line though, between becoming evil and just remaining neutral. When for example a hunter kills prey, he does it for food. When the prey dies, most of the power flows back into the planet, but some of it is left inside the meat (and the same applies to plants, but in a lesser degree). When the hunter now eats the meat, his lifeforce grows, be it by only a small amount. This is the way neutral beings function. They eat to grow (not just to stay alive).

Evil beings usually don''t even eat the meat from their prey, they simply want to take the large part of lifeforce that escapes the body of their prey after death.

Good beings that learned all about this flow of power after seeing evil beings corrupt it, decided to make a stand and they stopped eating meat altogether (some even stopped eating plants too)

This somehow resulted in them gaining more lifeforce coming from the planet itself.

Players start of as neutral beings. They have choices to be made:
1) Remain neutral, only killing to eat. This would result in a very normal pace of gaining lifeforce.
Neutral players are highly independent. They can pretty much do what they want. They can travel the world without any obligations. Neutral players make excellent merchants as they can deal with both good and evil. And they still have the choice to become good or evil (depending on their actions)
2) Become good, by not killing for a while (which will result in a temporary lifeforce loss even, as the body starts to use the lifeforce to keep itself alive). After some time, the planet will start to provide more lifeforce to the player he will start to gain in total lifeforce.
Good players have certain restrictions placed upon themselves. First, they cannot attack any other good beings (which is at the same time a blessing, as good cities will be a safe haven for good players). Second, they cannot attack anything without first being attacked. This also applies to evil beings. Even when they detect an evil being, if that being does not attack them first, they cannot attack it. Third, they have to live their lives for the greater cause. They will be asked to perform quests, certain duties must be kept. The good side will be a highly structured society in which each character adds to the total strenght. (I see the good side as an excellent way to get some politics into the game)
PS Good players CAN still become evil depending on their actions.
3) Become evil, killing whatever the player wants and draining the lifeforce from it. The lifeforce loss will forever have to be counterbalanced by killing.
Evil players have only one restriction placed upon them: they can never ever revert back to neutral and/or good.
Other than that, they can do just about anything they want. They take extreme pleasure in killing ''good'' beings as they grant them the highest amount of lifeforce. But they take just as much pleasure out of killing other ''evil'' beings, because from them as well they can draw lifeforce. Evil society is a place where players have to be on their guard pretty much 24/7. That trusted friend you''ve been adventuring with might just decide to plunge a dagger in your back when you''re not watching.

In short:
Good: living for the greater cause. Steady supply of lifeforce but almost constant need to do good.
Evil: living for lifeforce. Kill, kill, kill... or be killed.
Neutral: pretty much everything else. Explorers, merchants, messengers, diplomats, founders of cities.

(hope this doesn''t get too long and boring)

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So you are going for the apocolyptic theme? Sort of a vampirism/Highlander thing going on for the evil characters. Very dark, this idea would probably get slapped with an "M" ESRB in an instant.

Perhaps using the terms "good", "evil", and "neutral" are not necessary for this design. They actually seem to lead more towards confusion as to what you are trying to get at. Using a different terminology might help - it would be pretty easy to figure out which factions you were considering good or evil, but using the terms directly leads to all of the philosophising of what Good and Evil are when you already have a picture of what your factions are. Or, perhaps I have misinterpreted you on this one.

I still don''t quite see how the neutral characters would be viable - they could have the option of trading with the good cities (ok, no problem there) and the evil cities (what would be their chance of surviving in a city full of psychopathic killers?). Most likely, if the option were given, I doubt players would stick to the middle for very long, either they would stay with the good characters to survive, try to visit the evil characters and get slaughtered, or go on their own killing rampage to become evil themselves.


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