The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Lawful Stupid And Chaotic Stupid
December 20th, 2003
10:39 am

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Lawful Stupid And Chaotic Stupid

In D&D, no DM ever wants to see their player choose a Paladin. And there's a good reason for it: Most Paladins are butt-stupid.

This is not to say that a Paladin is a bad idea; it is, rather, that the idea of a Paladin - a holy knight who believes in law - tends to attract the wrong sort of people.* The sorts of people who usually want to play Paladin are people who want campaigns where Good always wins, and Good is capitalized because it's Good, and the line between Good and Eeevil is so clear that it's bound up with police tape and a large yellow sign that says "Evil Crossing."

As such, you wind up with a unique alignment known as "Lawful Stupid," wherein the paladin always rushes out to danger no matter how overwhelming the odds ("I can take on fifty orcs by myself!"), attempts to smash every evil power structure immediately, sans any sort of subtlety ("I walk through the town gates, storm into the evil governor's mansion, and accuse him of being evil!"), and generally acts in a "pure" way that would get any sane person killed in about twenty seconds.

They're good, but at the cost of every survival mechanism developed by man.

I am currently playing through Knights of the Old Republic for the second time, and have discovered a second alignment: Chaotic Stupid.

You see, in KOTR, you eventually become a Jedi, and you can be a Light Side or a Dark Side Jedi. This is enforced mechanically, because certain acts give you Light Side or Dark Side points, which in turn determine how easy it is to use certain Jedi powers. Want to choke someone? Costs next to nothing if you're loaded up on Dark Side points, but it'll take everything you have if you're a Light Sider.** Want to heal someone? Well, I sincerely hope you're closer to Luke than to Anakin.

The problem is that the Dark Side points are frequently accomplished via phenomenally senseless acts.

As has been mentioned before, money is usually worthless in computer roleplaying games. You don't pay rent, you can rest in the woods, and you usually can get much better equipment by killing high-level dudes. About the only thing that money is good for is buying healing potions in massive quantities, and even that need dissipates at higher levels when you have a good cleric or a Light Side Jedi.

But in ROTK - which is otherwise an excellent game - you get Dark Side points by killing and insulting everyone who crosses your path. You get Light Side points by saving them. This makes no sense.

For example: At one point, after gutting a fortress filled with bad guys, you encounter a waitress who's been held in slavery. You talk to her, and if you let her go you gain Light Side points; if you kill her, you get Dark Side points.

Now, let me reiterate; this is now an empty fortress. Killing her makes no sense tactically, since she's not likely to alert anyone - and even if she could, you've already triggered the alarm by that point. But you get Dark Side points by slaughtering her for no purpose.

Chaotic stupid.

Likewise, there is one point at which you encounter a widow, whose husband has died getting a rare beast's horn. She cannot sell it since she doesn't have a permit, but you do. She asks you to give her the money, and you can sell it at no loss to you.

The Light Side path is to give her extra money as charity. The Dark Side path is to stare at her and say, "You want to give me the horn," and she gives you the horn. She then decries you and goes off to kill herself.

Now, the Dark Side path is essentially meaningless. You get 500 credits for telepathically pushing her into giving you the horn, but money means nothing. For this evil act, you get to buy the princely sum of two advanced healing packs.

The Dark Side path is further muddied when we get a glimpse of the Sith Academy, where we see the Sith philosophy clearly explained to us. "The strong survive," the Sith Master says. "The weak die. Eventually, the master grows weak and is killed by the apprentice. That is the natural order of things."

As Gini said, if you're really evil, the first thing you do is change the fucking rules so that the apprentice doesn't kill off the master. I mean, she'll probably turn on you eventually, but do you really want to encourage that sort of behavior? "Go ahead. Kill me. I want you to try!" If you're amoral, you shouldn't really have any problems changing the system so it benefits you and screws your underlings.***

The Dark Side path in KOTR is ridiculously simplistic: You kill everyone who you can, and take their useless money. And that's just dumb. It gets you nowhere that the Light Side doesn't, and you have to suspend all reality in order to get this Dark Side to work from a script perspective; no rational Light Sider would stay by your side. Instead, you have your mentors saying things like, "You know, using the Force to steal that widow's last possession could lead to the Dark Side."

Dude, you've been following me for the past ten hours or so, and in that time you've seen me take assassination missions, kill widows, strike down helpless opponents, and bribe officials. Hasn't it occurred to you that I might be, y'know, actually evil as opposed to potentially evil? Even KOTR, whose scripting goes to excellent lengths to try to justify your deviant behavior and outright insults - "Oh, you're such a kidder, Brin!" - really has to stretch to make it seem like your friends would hang around you.

Yet Chaotic Stupid alignment is relatively common in computer roleplaying games - it's the same basic tenet in Neverwinter Nights ("How much gold do I get for saving the town?") and Temple of Elemental Evil ("You'd better pay me well for saving this town"), and games around the world.

I'd much rather have a third path - a sneaky evil character. A Godfather-in-training, who sets up favors for future events, or even calms down an area because he hates the instability associated with war. It wouldn't be too difficult to add. For example:

  • You find the waitress in the fortress. You say, "I will set you free, but remember: You owe me a favor." Later on, you're assigned to kill a guy who is surrounded by amped-up mooks in what will be a tough and uncertain battle. Fortunately, the waitress is now working for him! You say to her, "You owe me. Put the poison in his drink." Bingo! Massive XP.


  • You find the woman with the horn. You give her charity money, saying, "Remember who I am." Later on in the game, you're committing some abominable deed and are hauled into court. The only witness? The woman with the horn.


  • You do enough good deeds in plain sight that you can begin to do the occasional ghastly things and have no one believe the witnesses.


  • If you commit too many dark deeds where people can hear of it, an unbribable policeman begins to see past your facade. You are then given the option to kill the policeman, sneak into your other enemy's castle, steal some personal effect, and plant it upon the body, thus neatly ridding you of two interferences in one shot.


  • You go to save the town. You demand no money, need no reward at all... Except when you hit about seventh level and have gained sufficient fame to depose the mayor and take over the town to the ringing cries of adulating townsfolk.

I want a third option. One that lets me be a real badass, one that lets me be evil in ways that would make your skin crawl.

Come on, Bioware. I know you can do it.


* - Paladins also attract relentless power gamers, because a Paladin is traditionally more powerful than other character classics; it's all balanced out by the code of conduct, which power gamers never bother to follow. As such, you wind up with situations like, "Okay, I killed a nun, but she was lipping off to me. I still get to use my Holy Aura, right?"

** - Incidentally, I would like to issue a memo just in case I ever become a Jedi: I don't care if you've fought at my side for years. I don't care if you think that I'm a wonderful person, that I have a puppy saving plant, that I personally catch turkeys to serve to orphans on Thanksgiving... If you see me shooting lightning bolts out of my hands and choking people with the Force, kill me before I betray you.

*** - I am reminded of the early days of the Mormon Church, wherein they said, "Any man can have visions from God," at which point every person did have visions from God, and moved away from the LDS. They reversed their position about ten years later when they realized if every man could see God, there really wasn't a need for an official Mormon church or even Joseph Smith.)

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(77 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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From:illandaria
Date:December 20th, 2003 07:55 am (UTC)
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This is why, when I started gaming with the group I play with now, my paladin character lasted all of one session. *I* am not a power player, never have been. But everyone else was, to some degree. People kept *expecting* my paladin to do stupid things just because paladins do that kind of thing. When they found out I played the character as a rather quiet, unassuming sort of person, they were completely baffled. I ended up losing the character sheet, which was the real reason my paladin didn't make it to session two. I found the possibility of getting the paladin into situations where she'd have to question her faith and try to decide between what is good and what is right to be interesting. I play with hack-and-slash types, so this didn't happen.
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:14 am (UTC)
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I pity you deeply. I have yet to last through a full game session at a hack n' slash table. I think I could do it without dying now, which didn't used to be the case, but my real reason is utter disgust. Yeah, I'll admit that if we go more than three or four sessions without making some damage rolls I start to get antsy, but GAH! If we go ONE session without at least one really cool, involved, roleplayed out scene, I feel like the whole evening was a waste.

You might hit Google and do a search for 'MUX'. There are a lot of World of Darkess and D&D/fantasy MU*s out there that focus on roleplay (rather than roleplayed sex and/or cleaning out dungeons), and that can be a good place to explore the concept of character development.
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From:itches
Date:December 20th, 2003 07:56 am (UTC)
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I believe that the random killing of people is meant to be done because your character enjoys it. The darkside having corrupted and twisted him to the point where it seems like the most normal act.

In my opinion that is.

And to be that evil is very hard in PC games, which need to be scripted. Pen and paper games offer much more freedom, and no matter how good a PC game is, it will never match up to the role-playing available in a pen and paper one.

Once again, in my opinion.
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:35 pm (UTC)
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First opinion: Correct, but exactly what I'm complaining about. The sort of loner psychopath who enjoys that sort of thing does not get far in any organization, let alone creating an entire school of people who think like him.

Second option: Totally correct. Computer roleplaying is my methadone.
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From:mojo_iv
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:18 am (UTC)
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I agree wholeheartedly with your evaluation of Paladins... as a DM I used to kill them off as quickly as possible -- usually by "Angels" coming down to punish them for breaking their code of conduct. One player quit the game because I kept correcting his behaviour -- he'd say "Sure, I'll bang that camp follower" and I'd say "Uh, no, you don't. You're saving yourself for marriage".

I played a Paladin in Rolemaster -- tried to break type with him. Made him a pacifist carrying a quarterstaff.

--m4
From:noacat
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:22 am (UTC)
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Yeah, a sneaky evil option would seem to make actual sense. As opposed to having your character be transparently evil, at least to the gamer, rampaging around like an elephant who snapped its tether. Apparently the in-game characters were programmed to be stupid and overlook this small fact. *shakes head*
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:17 am (UTC)
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Actually, rampaging elephants tend to be reasonably pacifistic. I mean, they're still ELEPHANTS, and they usually snap tethers because they're enraged beyond all reason, but I've seen footage of them deliberately avoiding people who are just standing around waving their arms. People who they could easily, easily trample.

Elephants and big and badass, but they're pretty laid back, all things considered.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Expand
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From:elfwench
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:44 am (UTC)
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Well, you get out of it what you put in it. My hubby is an excellent DM and player, but he's a power player and his games are designed for power players - Rangers, Paladins... That's why we roll a grid and pick the best set out of the 14 sets of scores for our character stats. But his paladins tended to do things more in the line of killing the sleeping guard because it was more merciful to kill him while he slept, so he did not suffer. You can be a power player if you roleplay it right so that it's plausable.
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:18 am (UTC)
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*peering*

Hold on. Are you married to the guy I'm dating? That 'power player GM' thing and the 'rolling up a grid' thing sound really, really familiar.
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From:brujah
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:47 am (UTC)
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Most of the gamers I play with are either Lawful-Awful or Chaotic-Clueless. =)
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From:internet_addict
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:53 am (UTC)
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Hear hear. I'd love to play a game whereby I create a personal network of favors. In KOTR (not ROTK), there's a scene where you have to lie to the Jedi council. I'd love to see more of that, play an Iago or a Gollum or even a Grima Wormtongue, subtly poisoning the minds of those around you. Yay for insidious evil.
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:19 am (UTC)
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Mmmm. Iago.

"And what's he then that says I play the villain?"
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From:inncubus
Date:December 20th, 2003 09:05 am (UTC)
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I've come across truely awful paladins, "I claim this fight", if someone then helped(it was againt a number of batezu) he threatened to kill us for interfereing in his divine work etc. I've also come across a couple of really excellent ones, genuine consideration/angst and worry over if they are doing the right thing, or even in some situations whether there is a right thing to do.
I tried playing one in the last D+D game we did, I both loved and hated it, it was by far the most stressful and challenging thing I've played but it lead to some quite good IC discussions- is using poison more evil than say using magic?? it became quite interesting.

One of the funnier events from a different paladin(played by a friend of mine) was his paladin, a noble of the city and a paladin of the areas primary god, going to ask the watch to come and oversee the party's search of a villans home, as she didn't feel she had the right to just barge in; the city watch were most confused(as she could legally have ordered them around anyway). Meanwhile the party's "scout" had picked the lock, so when she returned with the watch the door was open and no breaking and entering was needed.
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:39 pm (UTC)
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Some of the more entertaining roleplaying stories I've heard involved parties going to ridiculous lengths to work around their paladin. This can be fucking great when you get everyone to grease the skids for him, at which point a good roleplayer will continually point to the event that you took so much trouble to orchestrate and say, "See? You don't need to resort to evil to get results!"

Grind teeth, wail silently.
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From:dglenn
Date:December 20th, 2003 09:26 am (UTC)
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When I was playing AD&D, we had two similar but distinct annoying alignments: Lawful Stupid and Meddlesome Good. LS was far more common, but MG turned up often enough to show its own problems. And it wasn't just paladins ... players trying to play other types of LG characters fell into these traps. (Occasionally a CG or CN character would turn out Meddlesome Good as well. I don't recall any NG doing so.)

We didn't have many paladins. The only one that comes immediately to mind is Lance the Preppy Paladin who had a smiley face on his shield and was portrayed as a parody superhero. I can't recall which of my friends played him.
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From:uncacreamy
Date:December 20th, 2003 09:44 am (UTC)
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That's nt actually true, about neverwinter nights. Some of the most powerful equipment comes from purchasing it, and you can't do that with 20 gold.
It sure would be nice if computer rpgs understood subtlety. The kind of things you can do in a real tabletop rpg just aren't present in the computer variety.

I don't play my paladin like that, and I really hate the majority of people who do. I also really hate what the movies have done to the image of evil.. hardly any movies have intelligent or thoughtful villians, and I think a lot of people use movies as guidelines.. "I wanna be THAT bad guy!!" or something.
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:39 pm (UTC)
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I've beaten NWN and the expansion pack as a good guy, and I've never seen anything I couldn't afford that was significantly better than the loot I already had.
(Deleted comment)
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From:icedrake
Date:December 20th, 2003 02:09 pm (UTC)

Re: There's something being left unsaid, too...

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Actually, I disagree. All Civs had the option of being a tyrant. The effects were represented on a much higher level than that, though. Remember the production bonuses? Remember the police units in each city? Remember the free units each city supported?

It's just that no matter what sort of leader you are, there is a limit. I'll agree that you couldn't bring the tanks into the city in Civ 1 and 2, but that's not saying much. See, this is people rebelling *after* the secret police was done with the ring leaders, and *after* the riot cops used tear gas on pregnant women and the elderly during peaceful demonstrations.
From:genericrick
Date:December 20th, 2003 10:25 am (UTC)
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Computer RPGs are far too inflexible for me in some respects. Although games such as Neverwinter Nights have a "deep" character creation system, every class is predisposed for a given "role," and every class has a specific personality you're expected to live up to.

For instance, when I play a Fighter, I may not want to be some hulking brute in full plate whose first level feats consist of Power Attack and Cleave. What if I want a more dexterious fighter who takes Combat Expertise and Dodge, for example? Regardless of how you set a character up in a computer game, the Fighter is a predisposed tank, and a dexterious one would be nothing more that a sheet of rice paper between the ogre mage and your wizard.

Most people don't realize that jump and climb checks (Or what have you.) can be used strategically in a battle setting to your advantage. It just requires a bit of imagination, and hope that your DM isn't mindless enough to say "Okay, you're currently battling a hoarde of trolls in a 50' x 100' with flat walls and no extravagances to take note of."

While the game is designed for D&D or Star Wars fans, it's eventually the power gamers that innundate the game en masse that makes developers gravitate toward "Hack n' Slash."

Let's all just become completely elitist! :D
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:31 am (UTC)
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Most people don't realize that jump and climb checks...

*cough* Hate to break this to you, but Jump and Climb are strength-based checks ;) Your dex-based fighter isn't gonna be very good at them, what with the armor (even if it's just leather armor) and the low strength ;)

A dex-based fighter CAN work. I've seen it done. They need a high con, like all fighters, and they need to wear light armor and probably you're going to want to invest in enchanting it ASAP. Their high dex gives them a higher base armor class, which makes up for the light armor they're wearing, making them about as hard to hit as your regular fighter (play a halfling and be that much harder to hit!). You want to be weilding a weapon for which you have Weapon Finese, which allows you to add your dex to all to-hit rolls instead of strength, and you want to enchant IT ASAP as well because you won't be doing as much damage with it without a high strength. The Rapier is good because it crits really frikkin' often. You'll probably want improved critical. And of course Weapon Specialization. And anything else you can think of to wring a little more damage out of the damn thing :)

Dex-based fighters do better dual-weilding, which allows them to make more hits, and sheilds are less useful for them because shields pretty much weigh them down.

So it can be done, and it can be done well. You can kick a lot of ass with a dex-based fighter if you build it right. (And you CAN build a fighter with NWN. Just don't take any of the pre-generated character pack options and pick your feats yourself)
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From:purplkat
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:09 am (UTC)
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I once played a wraith who was, essentially, a Paladin (I'd already decided to play a Heretic, but when I got *1* angst despite my high WP because the GM rolled badly, my path was set). He was Catholic and had some really strong beliefs, but recognized that it was as annoying as all get-go to listen to some religious toady trying to convert you all the damn time.

He got the nickname 'Angel' (a name which irked the hell out of him, but he gritted his teeth and bore it), in part because of the wings his mentor slapped on him so that he could have the advantage of height when hunting spectres, but largely because people saw him as truly Good, with the capital G. He would talk with people who would admit to doing horrible, horrible things and be like: "Well, are you going to do it again? No? Okay, here's what you do. There a church over there. Go inside, tell God what you did, and ask for forgiveness. Then don't do it again. Far's I'm concerned, you do that, you're good."

If I ever play a Paladin, which I may very well do someday, that's how I'm playing the character.
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From:hedonistpoet
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:13 am (UTC)
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I am amused... You accidentally refer to the game as ROTK once.

Movie must be on your mind.
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From:vienneau
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:18 am (UTC)
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Hmph.

I *like* playing Paladins - it's more challenging then playing all these other classes that can do whatever they want. Suddenly I have a conscience and can't just do whatever I want like all the other characters do.

I find that roleplaying, with real life repercussions, allows a lot of people to be the bitches they wish they could be in real life. They don't fear being sentenced to death or put in a prison for 50 years - they can just roll up another character. Having witnessed this over and over, I figure I'll lead by example and play a paladin not as a stupid "charge evil" guy, but a reasonable, intelligent, GOOD person who "does the right thing". People over-play them!
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:42 pm (UTC)
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Me, I'll just find a group to play with who aren't butt-headed powertrippers. I can't stand that shit.
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From:epa_flip
Date:December 20th, 2003 11:30 am (UTC)
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My usual players refer to them as "Awful Good" (though we call the other side Chaotic Stupid too). I think anyone that wants to play a paladin should read up on arthurian legends--especially those concerning Lancelot and Gawain. In my mind, they are what paladins should be--human, make mistakes, but try really hard to do the right thing.
From:furloph
Date:December 20th, 2003 12:29 pm (UTC)
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I never did get that, "hey, I just saved your city and Im like royaly humble about it and your shopkeepers dont even cut me a discount. The hell?"
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From:juuro
Date:December 20th, 2003 12:56 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if the author is influenced by the recently released film...

But in ROTK - [...]

A single instance in the midst of all the KOTR's. Pretty.

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From:tovahn
Date:December 20th, 2003 12:56 pm (UTC)
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May I recommend Morrowwind?
It's the most open-ended RPG I've ever seen, and while some aspects are tedious (Mages collect flowers for a good part of the game) the overall game is worth it.
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:43 pm (UTC)
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Did you read my rant on getting lost?

Morrowind is not for me. No way. I know myself.
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From:forsythia25
Date:December 20th, 2003 12:59 pm (UTC)
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That's why I liked my silly Multi User Dimension games in my roleplaying days.

You could be any sort of character you wanted. Your imagination was the limit.

I was ridiculously evil. Cruelly and deceptively pretty I committed all sorts of atrocious and manipulative acts on other hapless players who also probably had all kinds of secrets hidden up their sleeves.


Hahaha, sometimes I really, really miss my roleplaying era.
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From:aerin
Date:December 20th, 2003 05:02 pm (UTC)
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So start again. :)
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From:andrewducker
Date:December 20th, 2003 01:53 pm (UTC)
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I played a Paladin in Warhammer FRP. A follower of the god of Law and Justice.

And I played him as a complete fascist who believe in GOOD and EVIL and couldn't be convinced that the God he followed wasn't RIGHT and everyone else wasn't WRONG.

It was great fun playing someone like that.

But I'd hate to meet them in real life.
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From:epa_flip
Date:December 20th, 2003 04:03 pm (UTC)
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Isn't that the only kind of Paladin in Warhammer? There really aren't any "good" guys in that setting...
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From:daenarys
Date:December 20th, 2003 02:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh yes, completely agree... the sheer mindless preaching from Bastila in KOTR set my teeth on edge. Why would anyone stick around my character? I did it all but raping small orphans and they were concerned because I was falling to the dark side. I think the only dark side preaching that made me grin was Carth 'What, we're fighting the drunks now?' On the whole it was just annoying.

My KOTR characters tend to be lazy and the light side tends to be the easy option when all's said and done. My character gets ridiculously overpowered when it comes to the end.
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:44 pm (UTC)
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You wanna see overpowered? Try KOTR on the Dark Side. Man, my evil babe is a combat freak. She scares me.

130 points in one hit? Why yes, thanks!
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From:icedrake
Date:December 20th, 2003 02:14 pm (UTC)
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Ah, the beauty of Fallout 1 and 2, where you get local fame, which affects prices a great deal, and makes people either talk to you or shoot you up. And where, unlike BG and NWN, you *can* get away with murder without an endless flood of local enforcers being whisked in to whoop yo' ass.

I once tried to have some fun with the enforcers in BG2. I got through five or six waves before my party finally got killed off. Yeah, my party was *tough* that time.

If you want a game that does evil well, try Black & White. It's actually truly disturbing in a lot of ways, what you can do to a magical beast who trusts you. The designers always struck me as sick bastards.
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From:aerin
Date:December 20th, 2003 05:05 pm (UTC)
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I've heard lots about that game. My husband is always talking about how he likes to make the monkey play kickball with the villagers. It makes me wonder about my husband sometimes, but I'm sure he wonders about me, too, with some of the characters I play. ;)
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From:kraig
Date:December 20th, 2003 04:57 pm (UTC)
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I think the most fun I had playing AD&D was a character I'd played from first level. A chaotic neutral half-elven fighter. He almost had a very short career - 15 kobolds, at 2 hit points, clad in chain mail and wielding a bastard sword, he charged them and actually won. (Lucky rolls + good tactics.)

At about 12th level, after two years of playing, he decided that he really, truly, wanted to be a paladin, and the DM and I had fun with his successes - and failures. I never did get him fully LG, although a year later I'd gotten him to 16th level. The campaign fell apart as we all graduated and left town.

I agree though, that in tabletop RPGs it seems to be more common than not that people play paladins and the like as either holier-than-thou twits, or misplay them altogether. Computer RPGs have that weakness of almost requiring pre-scripted plotlines, particularly single player games. I keep meaning to try NWN online, but I never have.
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From:aerin
Date:December 20th, 2003 05:08 pm (UTC)
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I have a character that does exactly that. In fact, that's how her magic works. She can manipulate souls, but only with (implied or outright) consent. So she goes around making deals. "I can make this problem of yours go away if you just owe me one little favour..." It's great fun. Then there's the Imperial experiment in the SWD20 game who runs around with a neuronic whip. Heh heh heh.


So since it's on your mind, where's your review of RotK? ;)
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From:theferrett
Date:December 20th, 2003 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Read on in my journal, Macduff. The review's there.
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