Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO ColumnRoleCraft: Aligning Roleplay, Part 2Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column - RSS 2.0
On the last edition of RoleCraft, the discussion was an introduction on Alignments and their significance for roleplayers and their characters. Your character is hopefully going to develop and portray some form of a personality over its existence. Fitting those traits and beliefs to an alignment, i.e., giving your character's character a specific nomenclature, helps set a foundation upon which to continue to grow with some form of method, even if that method is madness.
As mentioned in the last article, prime consideration towards a character's alignment should be made from the point of view as to what is going to be fun for you to play. If it ain't no fun, it won't get done. Yet, another element to consider is the overall 'spirit' of whatever MMORPG you happen to be playing.
At times, the differences between Good and Evil are very distinguishable. Sometimes they're not. The same applies to the worlds of MMORPGs. Take WoW, for instance. I have observed much conversation regarding 'who's Good and who's Evil' in relation to the two main factions there - Alliance and Horde. The answer to such a question varies extremely, depending on which character / player you ask. Blizzard also purposely created WoW with an evasive answer to this question, I believe in an effort to pull players into the world on a more personal level. This allows players to develop character personalities from a huge range of choices. The burden of proof has been left to the minds of the players, and that is a good thing for roleplaying.
Now, that's not to say that creating a game where there is a definite distinction between Good and Evil is a bad thing. Just look at LotRO, where there is one ultimate source of evil to which all others seem attached to in some nefarious way. Yes, LotRO does allow for players to choose to play characters (known as 'monster play' here) on both sides. However, as I see it, there is no doubt in the minds of evil NPCs that they are indeed on the side of Evil, and that in itself also does much to create a unique style of roleplaying for those so interested.
This also opens another roleplaying component in LotRO, the choice to play a character on the side of Good who may not totally agree with all that Good stands for. I have read no small amount of debate on just this matter, ideas bandied about on how to roleplay a (non-monster play) character with slight to obvious evil tendencies. A like aspect of this play style is one of the main reason I roleplay a hobbit in LotRO. As a race, the canon of their history describes them as rather docile and quiet beings. Therefore, roleplaying a hobbit with an alignment conducive towards excitement and adventure seemed an enjoyable challenge, as so far has proven correct.
Then, there are games like Anarchy Online, where there are three major factions (Omni-Tek, The Clans, and Neutrals), adding yet another possible alignment factor to bear in mind. Who's Good, who's Evil, and why are the Neutrals neutral, if indeed they really are? All in all, looking at if your favorite MMORPG has it's own 'alignment' may do well for helping you to formulate an alignment for your character.
When you decide on an alignment path to follow, the next step is to decide on how that alignment is going to be demonstrated in the game world. Of course, this is no exact science either, open to as much interpretation as defining an alignment. As in all roleplaying, factors such as race, class, skill, profession, history, and others all have the possibility to affect alignment to any degree you see fitting.
Alignment may seem like an intangible notion, being that it is basically made up of thoughts. Two quotes come to mind that better illustrate how alignments are displayed publicly. For the older generation, such as myself, if you've ever read any Napoleon Hill or James Allen, then you are probably aware that "thoughts are things." What you think has a direct and precise effect on what you do. For those younger, I can point to a more recent exhibit. In the movie Batman Begins, during the final showdown fight between Batman and Ducard on the tram, Batman makes the statement, "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you." That one line I feel veritably revealed both the private and public thoughts (alignment) that are the essence of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Taking such examples from widely known subjects is one sure way to see how alignment can be manifested privately and publicly.
The following link adds more clarification on this, especially in the example box at the bottom of the page:
As mentioned in the last article, stereotypes can provide good examples, also. For instance, what image appears in your mind when you think of a monk? For me, it's Kwai Chang Caine, David Carridine's character on one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Kung Fu. What about a ranger? I have two images; one of course being Strider/Aragorn, and another being some fellow soldiers whom I served with in the US Army. Look into actual history at the examples of paladins, samurai, or the hwarang do warriors, if you're looking to roleplay a combat character following an honored code. I remember in Dungeon & Dragons when clerics were forbidden to use edged weaponry, for they were adverse to shedding the blood of their enemies, for the most part. Mages, wizards, and the whole class of spellcasters are generally known to forego the use of physical weaponry in favor mental martial artistry. Then again, there was Gandalf, who was quite adept at both.
The point is, taking elements that are generally known and / or widely perceived about certain people can be a great addition to your roleplaying, provided they are used with a proper amount of tact and skill. You can of course also be mindful of such elements and decide to completely turn-about, manipulate, and ignore them all together.
There are no hard and fast rules on how to do make alignment apparent in game, which is why I make such ample use of examples. Like roleplaying, there are as many ways to do it as there are players doing it. What I sincerely hope I've managed to do here is spark your own imagination, as always. And as always, I would love to hear how alignment is being used in your RP style, so feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the Comments below, or email me directly at RoleCraft at gmail dot com.
Finally, here are a couple links poking fun at alignment and how they can be applied to character outside of the normal roleplaying genre. Mayhaps they hold some merit of their own? Good for a laugh, at the least!
Until next time, role on!