Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is It Bad To Be Good?

Howard Pyle - Mounted Knight
Howard Pyle
Lately it seems I've been seeing a lot of hate for traditional good guys in games, comics, and movies. In the role playing arena, the Paladin, in particular, seems to be the target of much ire from more than a few players. I don't know if this is a generational thing or not, but it puzzles me. I hear from some people that Paladins are self righteous. Well, not if they are doing it right, they aren't! When played correctly, the Paladin is the paragon of heroism. The Paladin should be looked to for leadership and protection by the common people of the land. His or her reputation should be considered sterling by the very merits of being qualified to be a Paladin.

Well, yeah, you might be thinking, but what about the people who play Paladins like jerks and try to boss the party around or detect evil on absolutely every rat and frog they encounter? I mean, how irritating can you get? Seems to me that this sort of behavior is more of a player problem than a character class problem. Also, if a player is running their Paladin inappropriately, it's up to DM to reel them in. Following the rules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it's not easy to even qualify for Paladin-hood. The stat requirements are stiff. The code of behavior is strict. Paladins are expected to behave a certain way and uphold certain principles. It is a challenging class to play and portray well. Paladins that don't follow their codes or who commit acts that violate their alignment should fall from grace. There should be consequences. But is that really the root of the problem? Bad players? Bad DMs? A little of both? I don't know.

Of course there is also the always refreshing subject of how alignments are too simplistic. Life consists of myriad shades of grey, so why should there only be nine alignments to box people in? Well, I don't know about you, dear reader, but I get a belly full of Life and its myriad shades of grey all day long every day. It's nice to be able to pick a definitive side and know where you stand and who stands against you in a game, I think. Why make the game as complex as the life we are escaping by playing it?

Sometimes, as an older gamer, I get the feeling that the things I fell in love with in gaming, comics, literature, and film have now come to be seen as out of date, or corny, or cheesy. Or worse, oppressive. Perhaps society now has an inherit distrust or even hatred for any source of perceived authority and that is now being projected onto Paladins. Or any other presumably good character.

I see so many instances of players who strive to be edgy, or dark, or mysterious, or just down right evil! And that's totally fine if that's the game you want to play (I have done so many times), but it still doesn't explain this revulsion for the light. Where is this coming from? Why all the hatred for good, Lawful Good, and especially Paladins? What gives?

Doesn't anyone want to be the good guy anymore?


  1. I have been saying this for the past 20 years.

  2. In my own experiences playing D&D in the last five years. I've noticed narcissism is a big problem in all this. The players being all out Chaotic Psychotic are always the ones doing it to draw attention themselves. Classic show pony syndrone

  3. Agreed. I also add some thoughts. Of course it's easier, key word there, easier to play a chaotic and neutral alignment but it may be that for many, especially newer and younger players, that there's no reference in the real world regarding Paladins or the LG alignment itself that they can draw upon. I've played for many years, read and love all the old myths, legends and fantasy fiction associated with our hobby. Maybe others haven't so I wonder if we DMs created more scenarios where Good plays a very important and dramatic role, story and mechanics specifically, could be of help and open that fun side of gaming. Intrigue and circumstances let alone great arch nemesi can help here. I've noticed in Curse of Strahd that there are places a Character can't go or milestones achieved unless the Character is LG. I informed my Players of this ahead of time yet I'm not certain they understand how serious I was when I mentioned it. We'll see how that plays out as that adventure continues at my table.