Sunday, August 3, 2014
My Mistakes As DM I
In the late 70’s, Doctor Who had a tool for every occasion. He needed to stop an enemy, he had K9. He needed to open a door, he had the Sonic Screwdriver. These things plus amazingly capable companions made the writing for the show extremely easy. There was always an easy tool for the doctor to use, an easy solution. He didn’t have to use his brain for all of these little problems. A similar issue is rampant in role-playing games. Having an alignment system in my game was a mistake for this and other reasons. When I start another campaign, I won’t use an alignment system. That does not mean I won’t use Dungeons & Dragons, even though there are very good games out there that have no alignment system. My players like D&D, so I will simply remove alignments, and change those things that are affiliated with alignments (Detect Evil, Protection from Good, etc.) The main problem is that my current game has become a game centered on alignment. It is like Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver, being used all the time to solve all the problems. Yet the show is not about the Sonic. It’s about the Doctor. D&D is about the characters. Fundamentally it is not about the flavors (cool swords, neat spells, special armor, powerful wands, etc.) So when my players use Detect Evil as a means to determine action, then there is a problem. Alignment becomes a cheat. Character development goes by the wayside because the Detect Evil spell tells the players how to act. The players should be determining their character’s actions, using their brains, not the game system. Their decisions make the story interesting, not the tools being used. Doctor Who is interesting because of the Doctor, not the Sonic. I also don’t like the assumptions of alignments. We have a Goblin or an Orc. Tolkein made his monster races evil from birth. How easy and uninteresting is that, in this context? I see an Orc, therefore it’s automatically okay to kill it. There is no question, no thinking. It makes it easy to be a DM. I don’t have to give my monsters any personality or back story because they are evil. The PC’s will kill them on sight. Yea me! I’m a real DM! A real Story Teller! Something should also be said about how flawed the alignment system is as written. So many interpretations on what the specific alignments entail. If I am Chaotic Good then that means I am not quite as good as someone that is Lawful Good. Bullcrap. I’m only Neutral Good, and so I am more Neutral than Good. More Bullcrap. I’m Chaotic Neutral, that means I can do whatever I want, not that I am insane. Oh, so much Bullcrap. There are probably other reasons but these are enough. The story is sacred. The player’s participation is sacred. I want to encourage my players to use their brains and their hearts, not some cool formula, one given them from the start.