Michael Wolf of Stargazer's World was kind enough to do a guest post today. Here it is!
As some of you probably know “Don’t Be A Dick” is also known as Wheaton’s Law. And even though it was meant as a rule for people playing games online, it’s still valid at the gaming table - perhaps even more so.
The problem usually arises at character creation. While everyone creates a more or less good-aligned character willing to work with the group, there’s always that guy who just has to be the evil-aligned loner type that backstabs you the moment you least expect this. In most cases this ruins the game for everyone.
“But I am just playing my character” is usually the response you get, when you confront that guy after the session. And of course he’s true, but does playing one’s character be detrimental to everyone else’s enjoyment of the game? I don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely believe playing an evil character in a group of goody two-shoes can work, if done right. But most people think evil means you have to backstab your party members, kill any NPC on sight, poison the wells and salt the fields. But evil is not stupid. Playing a truly evil character is much more complex than that.
So if you really want to play an evil character, think more about his motivations and how he can achieve those within the group. Don’t try to make everyone else’s life miserable. Even an evil guy sometimes needs the help of others to achieve his goal. But being a dick, especially to your fellow player characters, is not the way to go. If you can’t pull of your character without alienating your group, don’t play it. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
By the way, being a dick is not something evil characters have a monopoly on. Even worse are players who think being lawful-good allows them to behave almost in the same way. Beheading your fellow group member because you suspect him of being an evil-doer is not the right way to make friends...
What I am trying to say is that you should always try to create characters that can work within a team. Of course everyone is allowed to have his own agenda, but try to avoid choosing a goal that doesn’t work within a group. Roleplaying games are social games and everyone around the game table has a better time if you just try not to be a dick!
P.S.: At Gen Con when Zachary ran Shadow, Sword & Spell for us, I experienced one of the rare occasions where someone managed to pull off to play a total dick without ruining the game for everyone. Heck, I think he even made it more enjoyable for the rest of us. But I think this worked a) because it was a one-shot game and b) he was a pretty good roleplayer. Don’t try this at home kids, we’re professionals. ;)