Thursday, April 2, 2015

Protagonists and Morality

While perusing the blogs at RPGA I came upon this post. I'd never read this blogger before, but I was struck by what Jeremy over at Stormin Da Castle had to say:

" For me, the protag[onist] has to function according to some kind of morality. There’s a trend in media to have every character and every decision merely reflect a “everything is shades of gray; there is no good or evil” mentality. I really don’t like this."

I absolutely agree.  

Part of why I made this blog Ancient Faith in the Far Future was to explore how my faith and its accompanying morality influence my game-play and the game world I've created. 

I wish that there were sci-fi novels (maybe there are and I just don't know of them) that speak to my vision of the Traveller universe like  this book did to the D&D game:

Speaking of Poul Anderson, as much as I enjoy his Dominic Flandry stories, I cannot overlook the fact that when Flandry's not actually trying to hold back the collapse of the Empire, a worthy goal, he is a consummate hedonist, with seemingly no personal morality at all. It would be hard for me to play in a Traveller game with  Flandry as my PC. 

In the same vein, I'm enjoying reading the stories of Conan the Barbarian that I get from Project Gutenberg.  Conan is crafty, straightforward and tough as nails. He is, however, just as amoral as Flandry. Conan is a protagonist, not a hero. He is interested in loot, women and living to see another day. He's not evil, but he's not someone I want to emulate in a game. 

After taking a quick canter through the novels I read and the TV/films I watch, I've come up a decent, if short, list of characters I would like to see/play in Traveller, or any RPG.
  • Malcolm Reynolds (TV: Firefly/Film: Serenity)
  • Richard Hannay (The Thirty-Nine Steps, and sequels)
  • Jame Retief (Diplomat at Arms, and sequels)
  • Christopher Foyle (TV: Foyle's War)
  • Hercule Poirot
  • Conn Maxwell (The Cosmic Computer)
  • Steve Rogers/Captain America (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
And I'll throw in one real-life character who I would love to play in any RPG:

Theodore Roosevelt (president, soldier, hunter, father, author, etc)

This, of course, does not even touch upon the Saints of the Church who led very adventurous and heroic lives. Here's just a few examples:

St George the Great-Martyr - a roman soldier widely credited with slaying a dragon, he fought for the Empire until he was commanded to take part in persecuting his fellow Christians. 
St Alban of Britain traded identities with a priest, so the priest could escape execution
St Brendan, called the Navigator was an Old-School Traveller!
Kings Edmund, Oswald, and Olav fell in battle defending Christian lands.
Plus countless others who have lived the travelling life as Pilgrims.  On the Random Encounter table entry 55 is Pilgrims. Maybe I'll do a post about places IMTU where pilgrims might want to visit. Hmm...

Although I never played much with Decipher's (now out-of-print) Lord of the Rings RPG, they did include an excellent guideline for heroic roleplaying, whether the PCs are religious or not. The terms used are Decipher's, the definitions are my interpretation of their text. These are ideals to aim for, which add a great role-playing dimension to a game.
Real heroes in action

Qualities of Heroes 

  • Compassion – they take pity even on their enemies
  • Responsible free will – they choose freely to do good, and allow others that same choice; they do not use coercion
  • Generosity – they give of their time, talent and treasure where there is a need
  • Honesty & Fairness – they avoid deliberate falsehood and criminal acts; but will keep confidences and secrets from the merely curious
  • Honor & Nobility – they keep their word no matter to whom given; they show respect to all, even those of low SOC
  • Restraint – the seek resolution through negotiation and compromise, backed with force which will be applied only when necessary
  • Self-sacrifice – they have a cause greater than their own personal desires, and will even work against their own self-interest to attain it
  • Valor – They courageously defend the good, and those who cannot defend themselves
  • Wisdom – they know their limitations and try to see things as they are, not filtered by bias or self-interest
  What fictional character have you wanted to/actually brought into your game as a PC or NPC?

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