I have heard really good Dungeon Masters make some pretty weird statements. Chief among them being that they never run monsters with good alignments . . . why not? I suppose that this hearkens back to our media influence of if it bleeds, it leads, it is also kind of small minded, the lazy route is always to use underhanded bad guys for everything. Heroes fight evil, this is true! But sometimes it is beneficial to the game if you pit hero vs. hero.
There are quite a few reasons why we would want to pit good aligned characters up against other good aligned NPCs. When we do this, we get an opportunity to really explore honorable combat scenarios. Also, fighting doesn’t become as strong of a priority as it is when dealing with odious malcontents. While we don’t feel bad about killing brutal hobgoblins, slaying a centaur should be a last resort. Good characters are also more inclined to allow a withdraw, a surrender, or actually obey terms of defeat which can come in handy when you are using low level characters that are limited in hp. The good NPC won’t be out simply for blood, they are held back by a moral code which may be different then that of the players, but it will be a moral code regardless.
I like using the forces of good to challenge and entertain the players, simply put, the forces of good operates on a completely different level then evil, one that forces everybody at the table to just sit down and think, and to ponder their own motivations. So, to celebrate good vs. good, I’ve put forth a few ideas that you can use to try this strategy out at your own tables. Of course it may be helpful to see how the forces of good operate before we get to involved in scenarios, right?
GOOD vs. GOOD
In the past I’ve talked about Law vs. Neutral vs. Chaos, and what each means, but for this article, I think that it would be wise to quickly state my feelings on the subject very briefly. Lawful simply signifies that a character can follow orders and fight as a unit with other lawful alignments, while Chaos identifies that person as a lone wolf who is unable to fight as a unit. Neutral forms the purest nature of the alignment that it is coupled with. A Neutral good character would be a clearer picture of good then even the paladin who is Lawful, if a Paladin is ordered to do something terrible, as long as it is an act of good and thwarts the powers of either evil or chaos, then the paladin will do it . . . he may never sleep again, but he’ll do it all the same, but the NG character would refuse, stating that it would not be right to commit the act.
The point is, that there is strife within all of the alignments. Granted, the wars between Good and Evil or Law and Chaos are more pronounced, but wars also are fought between each faction. A good example of this is the ongoing hostility between Elves and Dwarves. Elves are Chaotic Good by nature, while the dwarves are Lawful Good. These two races simply do not understand each other, and though peace has typically been established, it is a very uneasy peace that can strike up again at the drop of a hat, granted it wouldn’t cause an all out war which would rage for centuries, chances are they both already did that and their families still wear the scars to prove it, but their fundamentals are so completely different that it makes any long term commitments possible. The Dwarves make pacts and those pacts are set in stone, while the Elves will also make pacts but they will only be enforced for as long as it suits them. This introduces strife to the relationships between them. Once in a while a greater cause forces them to cooperate with each other, but as soon as the threat has been squelched, it is back to normal.
GOOD & CONFLICT
While two characters can both have the same alignment, they may have completely different ideas about what that alignment means. What is good to one man is different then what is good to another. Two Lawful Good countries that sit next to each other can still have troubles with their neighbor simply because of policy issues. Perhaps one country is run by a Government, and the other by Religion. Religious intolerance is not an evil act! If the Government of country A did not agree with the Theocracy of country B about whose god was tougher, this will eventually lead to war. Both sides would fight righteously, and both for the side of Lawful Good.
D&D is also about the mixing of different cultures, even on our own planet there are bizarre social taboos which are different for each racial group and country. Some taboos are placed right into the core rules themselves: Grey Elves don’t typically use any economy system what so ever. They have never heard of having to pay for food, this is a basic right to them. If you are hungry, then eat! Say a Grey Elf takes a loaf of bread from a human vender, he unwittingly became a thief. Adding more to this, perhaps Aarakocra folk consider it hostile to look each other in the eye? Centaurs are typically the least restricted, parading around the village with their junk hanging out making children giggle and good citizens faint in horror! The true limit to these social fouls are honestly endless, they can be amusing or serious as you wish them to be.
GOOD & VIOLENCE
We often take our own social baggage with us when we sit down to play. In our world it is acceptable to bad-mouth your government, women have freedoms and rights which other places refuse to grant them, but take a pocket knife into an airport and become an instant terrorist. We have our own bizarre culture which makes sense to us, but look absolutely crazy on the outside. We want to distance ourselves as far away from our own cultures as possible, of course I’m preaching to the choir, yes? This kind of stuff is what separates gamers from Role-Players, because we Role-Players find this stuff FUN!
Of course one of the biggest bags of luggage we lug around with us during our games, is our attitude towards violence. The gaming world is a kill or be killed world. Naturally some cities and villages may be exempt from this kind of lifestyle, however this is typically not the norm! Folks who live out in the country will typically shoot first and ask questions later. In particularly scary places, small little hamlets deep in the woods, the chances of getting someone to open their door after dark is practically nil. While the people can be good alignment, they know not to trust anybody, even if they are being eaten by monsters.
GOOD & XP
A character that slays a being that shares the characters alignment is not a good thing, and a Dungeon Master is perfectly within his rights to either refuse to give XP for the fight, or even deduct experience points. A paladin has to be careful when locked in combat with other good creatures, because if he slays them, he has violated his ethos even if his Government or whoever he pays his tithing to orders him to, this is a challenge which the paladin must face from time to time and he must also do it with grace. Rangers would loose their status as well, and a Priest’s deity may not be pleased with the cleric’s actions and refuse him spells until he has made amends for his error.
Good vs. Good is not as easy as Good vs. Evil, it forces players to really think about their actions before they commit to them. This would also apply to Evil or Neutral characters, a Chaotic Evil character may face consequences for going on a monster hunt, granted there are always exceptions to the rules, by their very nature, Chaotically evil beings are more prone to viciousness without remorse then their Chaotic Good counterparts. The lack or docking of XP is forced role-playing and symbolizes a characters guilt getting the best of them. Players who role-play properly should be allowed more freedom, if they impose a penalty on themselves, such as taking a –1 to all attacks for the next week, or embarking on a quest to make amends, they may avoid being docked XP. It is harder to play good characters then it is evil ones, tis the nature of the beast.
Of course these are just a few suggestions, things to kick start your mind so that you can come up with your own adventure hooks. Something to prove that it IS possible.
Scenario #1: Ghosts have been reported haunting the holy mountain, in fact, the ghosts are simply a fleeing tribe of Aarakocra who have taken refuge in this sacred place, and feeding on fruit trees intended for the gods and forbidden to eat. The church plans to send an army to destroy them, the players are allowed to climb the mountain themselves and try and persuade the Aarakocra to move on before the army arrives to kill anybody who is violating the holy law . . . including the PCs.
Scenario #2: An elven artifact has been stolen, a small, crack-team of elves under a blood oath are charged with recovering the object at any cost. Someone has told them that the artifact is in the PCs home village, the elves will burn and kill until the artifact is returned, believing that it is there when in fact, the village was set up by the real thief. The PCs must some how convince the elven party that the artifact is not there and aid them in acquiring it. If at any time the elves discover the artifact in the hands of the PC’s, they will destroy the village as punishment for theft and for lying.
Scenario #3: An evil race has kidnapped the princess of Centaurs, forcing them to do their will else they will slay the girl. The King is terrified enough to believe that the evil race will hold to their end of the deal. It starts out small, centaur bandits robbing all merchants, but soon the evil monsters are demanding the Centaurs crush an entire village. They say that if the Centaurs take the village and give it to them, then they will turn over the girl, this probably isn’t true, however the Centaur King believes it, the kings generals are simply following orders but are unhappy at this prospect, yet will comply all the same unless given a better option.
Scenario #4: Two good (Red & Blue for simplicity) armies are at war, the Blue side has, completely unknown to them, killed the Red king and captured the Prince. The prince is quiet, his men protecting his identity, he is unaware that his father was killed in a completely different battle. This small war is grinding to a halt, the Blue King looking to admit defeat however the Red countries acting ruler is Lawful Evil and wants all of the land for himself, unfortunately he can’t produce the king, nor is he willing to pay for the release of the prisoners because this would free the Prince at worse, and also give the Blue King the information that technically he has just won the war. The Red Leader instead is forcing everyone to join the army, and demanding that all money be put into furthering the war machine. How you wish to involve the PCs is completely up to you. Perhaps they are under the Red Country and forced to stop whatever it is that they are doing to fight, also all of their money will become the property of “the King”. Or perhaps the party belongs to the Blue country? Hired as spies to see why the King is refusing to accept the blue’s offer of Defeat. Managing the prison camp, escorting the herald to Reds castle with a formal letter of defeat. The possibilities are suitable for any level of play depending on what you think that your players would like to do.
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