Friday, September 12, 2008

Meet the magnificent bastards

For a long time, I resisted the idea of morally gray characters — those self-serving scoundrels who would just as soon ransack the crypt than save the curator, for example. To me, they were the crutch of unimaginative players. Twas infinitely better, I thought, to dig deeper into the game’s source material and craft a nuanced character festooned with plot hooks and ulterior motives — red meat for the GM, in other words.

Gradually, though, I’m coming to appreciate the idea of the “magnificent bastard” — the magnanimous, perpetual ego trip of a character whose only goal in life is to leave behind a handsome corpse in some lonely, forgotten dungeon. These adventurers have as much of a place in today’s fantasy gaming as the Tolkienesque Dwarf fighter and Elf ranger. Right now, at least, I'd like to see more of them.


Supah said...

I think you can have it both ways - a bastard who's self serving but also tied into the setting. Maybe the game is all about exploring an isolated jungle civilization - the bastard may want the idol in the crypt. And maybe even the cute anthropologist in the village.

If I'm the GM, I'm thinking, you can maybe have 1 if you play your cards right, but there's no way I'm giving you both. In fact, I'm going to make this choice hard for you, and this Hard Choice is going to be a central moment for determining what kind of bastard your bastard will be.

Morally grey characters beg for morally grey options. There's more than just taking the money and running. There's sex too.

Brent said...

I, too, have gradually developed more sympathy for morally gray characters, as I find them more interesting than yet another Conan or Frodo character.

That said, I don't see the "magnificent bastard" as a morally gray character. He has very well-defined personal morals. They're just his own morals.

But perhaps that's the point? Characters can have their own moral systems.