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Good & Evil, Incorporated


Moral Ambiguity

So, you've got a group of pistol-packing badasses accountable only to the corporate bureacracy that bought them the pistols. You may well be asking, "why are they the good guys?" Good question; let's delve into it for a few minutes.

Fair warning: As a GM, this is something you're going to have to decide for yourself. There's some good suggestions below, but you're going to have to decide what works best for your own group.

From a cosmic perspective, Specialists [i]aren't[/i] the Good guys. They work for both Good and Evil, which makes them agents of balance. They ruthlessly enforce a law which is absolute and amoral.

The important thing, then, isn't that they're always morally right, but that we want to root for them. That might sound hard, but you probably do it every time you watch a crime or spy movie. Let's take a look at the reasons we root for the not-so-good guys.

Better than Them

This is the classic, and it's been good enough for generations of Hollywood screenwriters and audiences. Both the heroes and villains in [i]Ocean's 11[/i], for example, are criminals. But the villains separate innocent people from their money, use violence to avenge minor disputes, and- this is the biggie- mistreat their girlfriends. This is what makes the audience feel free to root for the heroes.

If you want your players to feel okay killing a sorcerer, don't just make him a supervillain. Make him somebody they'd find contemptible in real life.

Finally, keep in mind that sorcerers are, inherently, cheaters. Whatever their motives, they've been willing to step over fundamental laws of creation to get what they want. Once you've done [i]that[/i], it can be pretty easy to kick dogs.

Hearts of Gold

The flipside of Better than Them. Most of your players probably sympathize with their characters. They probably don't want them to be bad people, either, even though they do some nasty things for a living. There are a lot of ways to make them feel okay about their characters, and, once again, Hollywood gives us some good examples. Give them opportunities to be witty, to rescue children from monsters, to be romantically sincere, but awkward, to occasionally take out a [i]really[/i] bad person.

Just My Day Job

There's a central contradiction in [i]Good & Evil, Incorporated[/i]. Specialists are violating privacy, killing people, saving people, and, indirectly, protecting the universe- but it's an everyday job, for them, and a lot of them just signed up because of the health insurance. When they come home after a late night on the job, they're ordinary people, with ordinary wants and problems. And like many people who are small cogs in big companies, Specialists are often more interested in their personal lives.

Sure, you've got the lone wolf hitman looking for the witch who killed his brother, but he's just that guy who takes work too seriously. Had some family problems, you know?

This breeds a kind of apathy that's also a kind of self-absolution. Sure, you whack people for Good and Evil. But that's just a job, and everybody's got to make a living somehow. Right?

Moments of Doubt

Okay, you see all that stuff up there? About how your players' Specialists should be able to live with themselves? Sometimes, that's bullshit. Sometimes, Specialists are going to do bad things and they're going to know it. The obvious case for this is on a mission- it's really easy for a GM to whip up a paraplegic nun who's using sorcery to help little old ladies cross the road safely. Harder to pull off, but proportionally more worth it, is the more subtle kind of melodrama.

Think about, say, Bruce Wayne. Here's a guy who misses every important moment in the lives of the people he cares about to go beat up schmucks in alleys. Now, imagine if he was running off to do something he was at least a little ashamed of. (Actually, it's possible that's already true- but literary analysis of Batman isn't why we're here.)

This is the big secret that's not really a secret. Players and GMs probably [i]should[/i] feel ambivalent about the Company. And once in a while, that should take the spotlight. Don't forget that our heroes are the Specialists, not the people they work for.

Alternate Moralities and Cosmologies

If none of the above work for you, here's some other ideas:

Self Employment

If the Company really is the Evil Conspiracy, maybe your players won't want their Specialists to stay under the Clients' watchful eye. The Company has trained your players' crack team of action heroes to take apart any enemy. Whose to say those skills won't be able to destroy- or subvert- their local Branch?

The [i]real[/i] question is if they'll be able to stay free. They'll need wits, preparation, and maybe a little bit of magic....

Yes, Virginia, You Really Are a Monster

When you can't reconcile yourself to playing the grey guys, you might just want to play the bad guys. I don't have a lot of advice for this, but it's probably a viable campaign option for some groups.

That's Not Really How it Works

If neither of the above work for you, you could add some secrets that support your preferred mode of play. Maybe demons corrupt their summoners with something more than human nature. Maybe the Company doesn't really work for both Clients. Maybe the nature of reality is even weirder than the Company knows....

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Page last modified on September 14, 2005, at 01:23 PM