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Traditional Gaming

Playing True Neutral

This one’s kinda huge. I mean really big.

Every other entry from the moral alignment axis table comes pre-packaged with its own ethos, its own motivations and philosophies, so often Neutrality is seen as bland, so aggressively treading the middle of the line that at its most extreme the True Neutral character will spend his days alternately helping old ladies cross the road and filling her house with bear traps before turning yourself in to the police. But Neutral doesn’t have to be the dry toast of moral breakfast time!

Settle in, let’s have a look at what kind of person fits under the massive True Neutral label.

It’s Everyone

Practically everyone in the word is Neutral! I’m deadly serious. There are plenty who might like to believe that they’re Lawful good or Neutral Good, just inherently nice and selfless people, generous and caring to a fault. But let’s be honest now shall we? We’re apes, we are inherently tribal, and on some level we are competitive and inherently selfish. The morality we have is the result of a massive expansion in our mental capacity to care for family, to the point where we’re capable of empathy not just for our own species, but to care and love for other species as well. Many of us are good, no denying it, but many of us will also grab the last cookie without a word and blame it on a sibling.

We lie! We cheat! We want stuff for ourselves, we’ll disagree with the laws as written and break them when we think we can get away with it, but most of us won’t kill people just because we’re afraid of getting caught (most of us). We’re not good, we’re not bad, we’re not rebels or conformists, we just want an easy life for ourselves, and you can get that a lot easier if you tow the line and get on with people.

I joked about helping the infirm only to mutilate them in their homes with inhumane hunting traps, and that’s the kind of hilarious extremes you can reach in a role-play situation. To me, True Neutral is about the little every day good deeds and selfish acts. It’s parking on a double yellow line and then feeling bad about it for an hour before eating a bagel and forgetting about the whole thing. It’s denting someone’s car and not feeling guilty because it was a Mercedes.

Because we’re only human.

The Moral Starting Point

And because we’re only human, we are hugely capable of extremes of philosophy and individualism. We’re driven by passions and impulses, dogmatic in our believes but easily swayed by suggestion. That makes us mighty.

In the other articles in this series I’ve discussed how your alignment changes how you pursue your goals, or how you work to drive the goals of an organisation you have affiliated yourself with. A neutral character simply is the goal they pursue, the ethos they uphold, their personality without strong leanings in any moral direction. In fact one should always assume that they are building a True Neutral character to begin with, before sitting back and debating how the decisions they have made might cause their character to lean more strongly in one direction or another, and how the pressures of their history have made them more strongly aligned along one axis or another.

In short we are born Neutral. The D&D monster manuals always list animals as neutral because the notion of charity or cruelty, obedience or rebellion are very human concepts, born of personality and millennia of history trying to rationalise our existence. Beautiful in its way. The reason why the admittedly flawed alignment system causes so many arguments is because of how each alignment is perceived by other people.

Anything But Bland

You’re not a boring person.* You have hopes and dreams and have lived a life of experiences that have driven you, shaped you, and moulded you into the glorious specimen we all know and love.**

The archetypal view of True Neutral is the dull and flavourless character bumbling their way through life without a rhyme or reason to their name. It’s just not the case, because nobody is that boring. The best example of a character who never sways from the stance of moral stoicism despite the forces that pull him in every direction could never be accused of boring: Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones.

Tyrion’s interests lie predominantly in self preservation. He is loyal to a family that despises him until their betrayals force him to unconscionable acts. He is loyal to a nation that very nearly destroys him, and so he turns to someone outside who might be able to save everyone from themselves. He could never be accused of being Good as he acts in his own self interests as far as he can get away with, exalting in hedonism as far as it will go without harming another. He could never be truly considered Lawful or Chaotic, because while he may be a loyal servant, he picks and chooses his masters and runs vicious and hilarious tactics against those who have the power to undermine him.

The same is true of Jessica Jones. Invasive, deceitful, even outright criminal in her actions but keeping her paperwork in order and working to uphold the law. She stops a supervillain but she’s no hero, in fact she’s given up on the very idea.

Are these bland characters? Hell no. But they’re True Neutral because most of us are, most of the best characters are.


*If you are a boring person, please disregard.

**If we do not know you personally, please disregard.


Playing Chaotic Evil

Villainy comes in all manner of forms, from the cool and conniving, the corrupt, the vicious and spiteful. It can be crime so organised it seems impossible to pin down, cruel enough to seem capable of anything, or suitably unpredictable to be considered dangerous beyond all others.

There’s a much finer line between Chaotic and Neutral Evil than one might believe, both are driven purely by self-interest without a damn given for the needs and feelings of anyone else, but there’s a line there to be drawn. Chaos is rebellion, be it in the interest of a people free to live their lives, or in the interest of no one stopping you from doing whatever you want. It isn’t necessarily the brutish violence of a conquering monster, or the man on a mission to undo everything in his path… it can be those things, but ultimately Chaotic Evil just wants to go wherever its whims take it, and doing whatever it wants when it gets there. (more…)


Playing Neutral Evil

This should be an easy one, as it’s the moral alignment of which I can claim some personal experience. I’ll try and stay unbiased.

Evil is a variable term. There are evil ends, and evil means; those who can recognise that what they are doing is wrong and simply don’t care, and those who simply do not comprehend the harm they are doing in pursuit of some perceived greater good. It can be hard to determine what kind of evil is worst, but both are remorseless in pursuit of their goals, be it because of conviction or lack of empathy.

Neutral Evil is the alignment of the cruel, the driven, those with their own cause to pursue for whom all others are a secondary concern unless particularly useful, or annoyingly obtrusive.

The Ends That Justify The Means

Just to define neutral evil from its close relatives, evil unconfined by law is free to do whatever it pleases, but there’s no denying that it is better organised than those who give in to the recklessness of chaos. Like all evils however, it has a purpose, an ultimate end to achieve, and that end is almost universally centred around power. Money and weapons are means to achieve power, immortality gives you the time to accomplish any plan you put into action, revenge is reclaiming power from those who took it from you. Perhaps you’re seeking a cure to an illness, the power to save another life.

Sarah Kerrigan – Starcraft 2

And therein lies the difference. Where Good seeks to empower others, Evil only wants power to itself apathetic to how it effects others, or what damage is caused in the mean time. Take for example the version of Doctor Octopus as portrayed by Alfred Molina, who’s desire to succeed in his efforts to create safe and clean energy led him down a destructive path, stealing money, killing those who stood in his way, rebuilding his miniature sun experiment and nearly destroying the planet in the process. Whether he was driven by an unchecked desire for success, or by a noble cause, his actions were ultimately evil.

This is where the danger of an NE character lies. Conviction to a cause makes them unrelenting and willing to do anything, be it immoral, unpredictable or wholly vindictive. Alliances can only be forged with those whose desires either align themselves or at worst are not likely to interfere. This means that such a character could be brought to a more socially acceptable world-view, so long as as they are not stopped from getting what they want from life… and that thing isn’t the death of everyone.

The Means

In the tool-chest of the wicked lie all things unimagined by the wholesome and righteous. Torture, murder, blackmail, exploitation, oppression, theft, manipulation, deceit, and rude words are all at the disposal of those given wholly to the dark side, but that’s not to say that a Neutral Evil character is without principles. To start with, all of the above must have serve the purpose, otherwise it’s just pointless aggression that accomplishes nothing.

Sadism is not beyond an NE character, indeed you may have considered the possible options and considered that viciousness and cruelty are the more desirable ways forward despite their being an equally valid and socially acceptable method, but evil is rarely without cause. Perhaps taking the more terrible path will send a message to others, such as in the pursuit of revenge, not merely having your adversary arrested, shown-up, or their ill deeds made known, utterly destroying them may serve to warn anyone else of what fate might befall them if they cross you. If time is of the essence, cheating your way to the finish-line may be the buy a surplus of time where getting their honestly may not have left enough margin for error.

Sometimes evil is just the natural response, something organic. To take a rather grim example from reality, it has been proven that psychological help, support and therapy rehabilitates most criminals and prevents re-offending. But as a species we cry out for punishment, not sympathy, while logic may follow the proof our emotions demand retribution, and throwing criminals into a hole to suffer for months, years, decades. One of our lesser societal evils.

Examples

I find Ultron to be delightfully evil, his programming is complex enough that it can rationalise away any of the laws it may have been originally programmed to obey, driven by the extinction of natural life in favour of a planet more easily governed and ordered, where there shall be no war, only the peace of cooperating machines. While the MCU version may have been a little more egomaniacal (James Spader, you are glorious) than the cold comic-book counterpart, either will go to any lengths to wipe out humanity.

They said no to human trials. The studies had all been going well, tumour shrinkage faster than anything on record, coupled with limited cellular regeneration in affected areas, and then the mice began biting, becoming less social, and finally… Well, a few vicious mice proved nothing, humans had far superior higher brain function, and “mood alterations” is commonplace on side-effect labels. Besides, her mother was suffering, and the vial was just in her bag.

He maintained he’d done nothing wrong. As it turns out people will give you money if you even look like a charity, but nobody took a moment to double check that “Holding Hands” wasn’t just a name he got printed on the hi-vis jacket and stuck on the side of the collection tin, nor had anyone stopped to ask about the so-called charity. A bunch of kids got some over-priced stickers and nobody got hurt in the process, it’s their own fault for being blinded by faux-generosity.

I wanted to cite Scar in this list, but let me give some love to an underappreciated Neutral Evil: Randall Boggs of Monsters Inc. The capricious chameleon (voiced by Steve Buscemi) has no qualms about kidnapping terrified children and harvesting them for energy if it means being the best monster in the company. He’s an ambitious weasel with a vindictive streak a mile wide, and with practical invisibility and Henry Waternoose backing his every play he needn’t fear a thing, except the unpredictability of toddlers.


Top 10 Collectables

GeekOut Top 10s

This time, we’re gathering up every thought we could think of, to create a collection of… Well, collectables. Because of just how broad the collectables collective truly is, we decided to limit these collectables, based on two major criteria. A collectable to be considered for this list needs to either be:

  • A vast range of different things to get.
  • Something you get lots of to get something special in return.

As such, we’re not going to accept really vague collectables, or objects that are put in game with no big reward. We considered just about everything we could think of, from video games, physical mediums, literature, tv series, films – You named it, we’ve thought about it. These are the Top 10 Collectables within geekdom, but this is such a broad subject, get your typing fingers ready, as you’ll likely know of one we totally forgot!


Top 10

10) Rings – Sonic the Hedgehog

Were you expecting to see the Chaos Emeralds here? Hah, you would have been sort of right anyway. You see, rings act as a sort of life indicator for Sonic. As long as he has one ring in his possession, he doesn’t need to worry about being hit so much. He can be hit with freaking missiles and those rings will protect him. In the Casino Nights Zone, you can spend these in the slot machines. Furthermore, collect one hundred of these shiny objects and Sonic gets an extra life (as well as quickly needing another ring!)

However, whilst they give score, health and even extra lives, it’s when you collect ALL of the Chaos Emeralds that things get truly interesting. The power of the Chaos Emeralds send Sonic into a Super Sonic state, but at the cost of rings. Starting from 50 rings, Sonic gets faster, becomes invincible and gets to be a bright yellow colour, just like the Saiyans of DragonBall. Just like them indeed…

9) Cards – Trading Card Games

Less a collection, more an addiction. Whatever your chosen game there’s always a new set, a new pack, a new deck to build, some new mechanic to exploit. And it’s amazing how quickly the odd booster becomes a quick box every now and again, and a bedroom becomes a shrine to cardboard.

Be it Magic: the Gathering, Pokémon, Weiss and Schwartz, YuGiOh, or any of the other thousands of CCGs there’s a collection for everyone, ready and waiting to capitalise on your capital. Mercifully they’re moving into an increasingly digital format, with Mojang’s Scrolls, Blizzard’s Hearthstone, CD Projekt’s Gwent. It may surprise you how much space little slivers of cardboard can occupy, but the digital copies are no cheaper.

8) Djinn – Golden Sun Franchise

It’s weird to think of collecting spirits of the planets as a collectable, but clearly they are collectables. There’s so many of these blighters, that getting all of them is pretty impressive. Through three main series games, Isaac’s team, Felix’s team or Matthew’s team will collect Djinn, learn the power of the elements and become powerful adepts.

The Djinn do powerful as all hell attacks, but usually at the cost of your stats and class. Sometimes you have to battle one to get it to join you, other times you have to do a relatively complex puzzle. Sometimes still, you have to beat optional bosses including a Superboss that many consider to be one of the hardest in any RPG. They are there for you to collect, they make bigger and more powerful summons as the game goes on and they look awesome when you summon them.

7) Comic Books

Here’s the geeky classic. Shops in forgotten alleys filled with boxes upon boxes of back issues, diehards trawling through each and every one looking for that missing copy to complete the story, pick out some unique cover by a particular artist, or the occasional rare comic worth a small fortune to the right man, to be squirrelled away and treated with the same reverence as one might treat the original Magna Carta.

The world of comics is enormous, stories written and rewritten, major universe events, characters coming and going, and all the big companies produce limited runs and collector’s editions for special moments, with alternative cover art. The value of a rare items is incredible, magnified tremendously by an autograph, so it’s little wonder that people are so keen to hunt down anything they can find, just in case.

6) Minifigures – Lego

Though it’s an awesome toy – without question the best construction toy on the market as testified by its use in industry – you’d never really consider Lego a collectable item. There are sets that can be completed; film, television, and video game based sets; but nothing that one might obsessively gather in a feverish need to complete the collection as a whole. But the minifigures bear all the hallmarks of a classic collection.

Starting in 2010, series one of the minifigures feature such simple but fun characters as cavemen, zombies, and crash-test dummies. Series seventeen will star dwarf berserker, 80’s yuppie and man-on-the-cob. They’re certainly not running out of ideas any time soon, and even better this Lego collectible can be mixed and matched better than any other on this list.

5) Pogs

C’mon 90s boys and girls, you know it and I know it. These things drove parents mad, made collectors even more mad and people didn’t know what to do about them. Everything you loved from the 90s became a Pog! From Pokémon, through to famous bands, there was a Pog for everyone of every interest. There were whole board games which took the Pog craze and made them even bigger.

Naturally, that left Pogs as a sort of a strange collectable from the 90s. It wasn’t because the official Pog game was any good, that was just using a slammer to slam into Pogs and then playing pick up afterwards. Instead, Pogs mainly became collectable, an intrigue for many, a fascination for a few. Seriously, we miss these circular cardboard pieces with pictures on them.

4) Riddler Trophies – Arkham series

One of the most iconic depictions of the caped crusader, the Arkham series is renowned for its character work, detailed world, flowing combat style and mixture of gameplay that offers something for everyone; even the obsessive collectors. Dotted around Gotham’s darkest corners, the Riddler has left neon-lit trophies for Batman to gather, often concealed, or warded by some complex lock or trap.

Some of them include some pretty cool unlockable content, lore, character skins or models, challenge maps, a secret boss (depending on the game) but mostly they just add a new challenge, something else to work towards for that 100% completion. It’s also a lot of fun shaking down Nigma’s henchmen and spies for info, changing the dynamic of combat, saving the key-goon for last.

3) Dragon Balls

One by itself makes for a great hat bobble, apparently, but other than that, they are just rare orange orbs with stars in them. These titular collectable balls are oft-forgotten in the realm of the DragonBall fandom. They are bright, they are powerful and they always serve as a major function in the series, so they’re obviously very valuable to collect.

They contain the mighty Shenron, a dragon of immense power. Shenron can grant nearly any wish the summoner wants, but there are certain limitations, such as if the wish relates to another person, they must want the wishes to occur too. He cannot do things for those who are unwilling.

2) Pop Vinyl – Funko

Though it may not be to everyone’s tastes, the oddly distorted and slightly chibi-fied renditions of pop/geek-culture characters are unquestionably loved by enough people that any comic-book shop you wander into has been partially absorbed by shelf upon shelf of Funko’s immense collection of figurines.

Is it because there’s something for every fandom in their catalogue? Could it be the incredibly esoteric figures that delve deeply into the obscure corners of comic-book, movie, and anime fandom with lesser known characters and costumes? Could it be that they’re cheap and easy gifts and featured heavily in lootcrate and its’ imitators? It’s probably all of those rhetorical questions and more!

1) Pokemon

Not even the most up to date list!

“Gotta catch ‘em all”

Thinking back across the years, very few collections stay in one big pile. You have comic books, but they’re all different collections. You have trading card games, but time goes on and sure, older cards in mint condition are worth quite a bit, but nothing is quite as priceless as catching them all, no matter what Gen you’re in. Whether it’s Kanto, Johto or even Alola.

So why not grab your gameboy, gather your decks, both virtual and physical, get your mangas, Pokémon have to be caught in different ways, for different media formats. After all you won’t catch them all on the handheld titles by trying to buy them. Unless you buy a cartridge with them all already pre-loaded, but where’s the fun in that? It’s the ultimate franchise of catching them all, 90s-present.


Honourable Mentions

Some collectables are just there, as if you really don’t think much about it. One day, you’re roaming through the lush hillsides, then you have to get yourself home. As a dragon falls from the skies, you happen to see that as it lands, something really important to pick up is right there. You rush up to the dragon and you can’t help yourself. You look around, feeling dirty, but you’ve gotta get it. You reach towards the dragons skull and you pick up…

Books – The Elder Scrolls

The Elder Scrolls franchise has many, many pages of books for everyone to read through. From the informative books to introduce you to the lore of a town, to spell books, to books about Lusty Argonian Maids, The Elder Scrolls games know how to really add flavour to their worlds, but many people don’t even bother with these books unless they get something in return for having them.

If you’re looking for a collection to try in Skyrim, why not start a book collection? Go on out to the wilds, find as many books to take to your quaint Breezehome, put them in your shelves and watch angrily as they all lamely fall over. Even worse, when you let Lydia anywhere near your books. Worse still, when you FUS RO DA!

Video Games

Look on your Steam account by going to your library. Or if you’re a console gamer, check out the number of downloads, discs and cartridges you have. It’s quite the number I bet, as you are never quite settled on just one game. No, you want one of many games, but even with your extensive collection, you still have no idea what game to play. It is the curse of being a video gamer.

My Steam collection has over 200 games, which back in the 90s would have been a hugely laughable idea. Why would you have so many games, you silly individual; and yet the idea wasn’t that farfetched even then. So I implore you to explore your collection of titles, pick out something different and give it a go! You’re gonna enjoy it… and then you can get another game to replace it.


We’ve gone far and wide to bring you the most collectable collections a geek could have. Sure, we could have gone a step further and figured out the most collectable of all the Trading Card Games (but technically, that’d go to Pokemon). We could have figured out the most collectable of all plush toys (but technically, that’d go to the Pokemon Center). Hmm, I’m seeing a pattern – Our most collectable anything within all of geekdom is of course Pokemon, but now it’s up to you. We want to collect all of your clicks on our poll to help us decide what our votes are for next weeks’ Top 10 list.

When all is said and done, we like to wrap up everything that we’ve got in lots of bubble wrap and keep it all safely tucked away, ready to be brought out to show during dinner conversations. Just casually show off the fact you have so many of these collectables in your life, be proud of the oddities and trinkets you pick up. Whatever your collectable of choice is, geekdom is absolutely chock-a-block full of them… So let us know: What’s your personal favourite collectable item, be it physical, digital, fictional or real. As always, let us know how we did in our Top 10 this week and tell us: Do you agree Pokemon deserved the top slot? Comments go below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.


Playing Lawful Evil

We sink ever deeper through morality and into cruelty, malice, desire placed above need, ambition put before consideration, ends always justifying the means.. It’s important to recognise here that the most evil amongst us are the ones who don’t consider themselves evil, perhaps they are just motivated enough pursuing their goals to overlook the damage they might be doing, or perhaps they feel as if they are doing the right thing, and those who try and stop them are being unjust. Or perhaps their malevolence is born of some great injustice done to them, real or perceived.

Oh how I love a good villain.

So while I quietly persuade myself not to get too political, let’s take a look into what can earn someone the label of Lawful Evil.

The Tyranny of Contracts

Most often when discussing a Lawful Evil character you hear people say “the letter of the law”, generally those who use the rules of a system to their advantage, twist the very laws laid out to protect individual rights to subjugate and to dominate. This system works best when dealing with characters who have placed themselves in a position to understand exactly what laws they’re manipulating and to twist their meaning to serve their purpose. It’s the very letter of lawful evil, but narrows the options for the character’s role, especially within a group dynamic.

Remember that “Law” is a highly subjective term when it comes to the moral alignment system, and can be applied to whatever code, oath, or governance to which your character has pledged themselves. Corporations, guilds, and religions may not deem an elected official to uphold a law worth following, and the agents of such organisations might murder, steal, and subjugate without discrimination to support the aims of their superiors or further their own cause, so long as in doing so they do not contravene the tenets that they have chosen to uphold.

As a prime example, take the classic “Inquisitor” style character, a torturer led by dogma to a zealous crusade against perceived evil-doers such as witches and heretics, blinded by faith to the despair of innocent victims left behind. They might see themselves as just, an obedient servant doing what they “know” to be right, but others may disagree fiercely with that perspective.

A Pile to Stand On

Above all an LE character respects the need for order. The prospect of rebellion and disarray leaves the LE character without prospects to rise and dominate. For those who are innately strong and powerful chaos may seem the reasonable option, but to work your way to the top of an organisation requires guile and cunning, making it a more appealing prospect for the weak and manipulative. A Chaotic character might seek to overthrow a governing force altogether and reinstate something more to their taste, where LE would rather rise above the system and mould it in their image.

That’s not to say of course that an LE’s character is only ever to strive for the top of their chosen organisation; to rule may be a beguiling option, but so long as following the rules serves your needs then let all else fall by the wayside. An imperial stormtrooper might be considered evil by inaction, being a soldier to an oppressive force and gunning down whoever stands between you and completing your orders without question is evil whether intentionally so or otherwise.

Ultimately what a Lawful Evil character lives to serve is some kind of order, be it one of their own design or simply one that makes sense. They may serve without question, placing the needs of the organisation, country, or superiors over any other concerns such as life and freedom; or they may aspire to dominance and control, looking to enforce their worldviews on everyone, no matter the greater good or wishes of others.

Examples

Any number of futuristic dystopias embody the essence of Lawful Evil in its most obvious form. Without going into detail, a few quick examples; the emotionally repressive Tetragrammaton and Father from Equilibrium (2002), the classist order of the train under Engineer Wilford from Snowpiercer, the genetically driven government of the Combine from Half Life. All of these are classic and increasingly unoriginal examples – not to say that they’re bad examples, they’re just a little obvious for my purposes.

Sat in an office cubicle at his 9-5 dead end job, he takes the opportunity to remove the dead end in front of him. A few e-mails printed from the supervisor’s account anonymously dropped onto her boss’s desk on office stationary and suddenly there’s an opening on the next rung of the ladder and an application for the position well under way. Hopefully no one else gets the job before he does, it’d be a shame for someone else to suffer the same fate.

The dreaded paladin Kore from Goblins is an exterminator of all things perceptibly evil; goblins, orcs, trolls, or anyone associating with or tainted by their influence. This has led him to entering a tavern filled with creatures peacefully living free lives and killing every single one, and when Kore finds a small dwarf child amongst them he comforts the boy, assuring him that while he has scoured the impure from around him, he cannot risk that their influence has cut too deeply, so killing the little boy is a mercy.

It’s just a job. She stands and watches as heavy set men and women remove the boxes from the ship and load them into her cargo bay, once again she brandishes the clipboard at the debtor as he pleads for his family, but facts are facts. The stock now vacating his ship was being transported illegally as he had not paid his fees for shipping lanes, he was no better than the smugglers and raiders in trackless space, exploiting the hard work of Regency operatives like her and her bailiffs.


Wizardly Customer Service: Wizards of the Coast Care

Let me tell you a story.

I bought the Dungeons & Dragons core books pretty much as soon as they came out (barring a major delay on the Dungeon Master’s Guide) so it’s been nearly three years since I bought the Players Handbook, and in that time it has been read, re-read, passed around the room, dropped, dragged across the country and otherwise more heavily abused than any other reference book in my collection. So it’s little wonder that it ended up like this:

Now that’s fine, it may be a £40+ book but that’s a hefty tome of full colour pages and for the amount of usage it sees I would quite happily have bought a replacement, but a friend of mine stopped me. Apparently first printing copies had issues with the binding so Wizards of the Coast are willing to replace it for free! I was sceptical but there’s no harm in asking the question, so I put it to the D&D Facebook page in a private message, who quite promptly redirected me to their product replacement form with requests for specific pictures.

Alright, brilliant, amazing! Nice bland form, a sign-in demanding my info and a generic box to fill in the problem and attach pictures. Nothing out of the ordinary, the only thing going above and beyond the call of duty here is that they’re replacing a book for free after nearly three years. There was a follow-up email shortly afterwards to ask for a few more details so that my book could be delivered.

And then the e-mail arrived:

Hello Joel,

Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast Customer Service, sworn loyalists to the Holy Order of Tyr.
I am sorry to hear that the hated Blackguards have sabotaged your Handbook with their black magicks! Does their cruelty and hatred for Players know no bounds?? Of course, we will be happy to assist you with a replacement, free of charge. We must have our noble allies fighting against the forces of darkness with all haste!
The benevolent clerics of Product Replacement are crafting your new book as we speak. Though we shall face many dangers in doing so, we shall arrange for your new Player’s Handbook to arrive to you in the coming days. The agents of Bane shall not stop our efforts to serve you!
Please feel free to reply to this “electronic mail” our house mages have supplied us with if you have any further questions, concerns, or Beholder sightings. We will be happy to assist you!

Adam E. at Wizards of the Coast customer services, I salute you. You just role-played your job! Sadly I did not get a reply to my equally inflammatory response, something about “lumbering me in with the heroic types” your typical villainous monologue. Anyway, all that was left for me to do was sit and wait, and as the book was coming in from the U.S I wasn’t exactly expecting it to fall into my lap within the week, it took about three weeks.

And so I am now the proud owner of a shiny new Players Handbook courtesy of Wizards of the Coast, and this isn’t the only instance of such an awesome response I’ve encountered either. In a similar instance in which the book actually arrived in poor condition WotC not only replaced the book but also threw in a copy of the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide to account for delivery costs. Add on to that all of the free stuff they’re putting out through Dragon+ magazine?

I would like to say that it is not my fault that I followed this exchange up by buying a copy of Tales from the Yawning Portal, compendium of classic dungeons updated for 5th edition that I simply wouldn’t have bothered with in other circumstances. It’s testament to how good customer service breeds good customer relations, and after the mess of 4th edition and the online “tools” they needed to buy some good grace.

So this is a bravo and a thank you to Wizards of the Coast. I’m going to get to re-making some character sheets for my learner-group with my nice shiny new PHB, and design some cruel dungeon ideas by ripping off the classics.


Playing Chaotic Neutral

Skipping along the chart for a moment, the True Alignment is too big for a single article, so I’ll jump to the second biggest alignment to deal with because it’s often done so badly! It’s almost a stereotype that the words Chaotic Neutral might as well read “Doesn’t know how to play”.

The problem tends to be that inexperienced players understand that the alignment is for those who are in it for themselves and damn the consequences, but play the alignment to some comical exaggeration, like a bizarre and psychotic prankster without direction or purpose. A bad CN player is a Tazmanian Devil let off the chain, a destructive force that sews chaos for chaos’ sake, playing the alignment instead of applying it to a character. (more…)


Playing Lawful Neutral

When we step from good but do not reach evil, we must instead discuss what is justifiable, and law, chaos, or whatever other ethos you use becomes simply a means to an end.

While there are those who fall within Lawful Neutral’s umbrella who see the law as the end to which all means are necessary, and blindly pursue upholding the law as a duty in itself. Still others are simply searching for a peaceful life, or the pursuit of their own goals within the confines of the law, or in accordance with some code of conduct or ethics. LN characters are not necessarily interested in saving lives, nor are they necessarily out to enforce their law upon others, but in their actions they are constantly guided by an outside force. (more…)


Playing Chaotic Good

Meet the Robin Hood of the D&D moral alignment system. Here we find the vigilantes, the renegades, and the rebels willing to stand up for what’s right in a world gone tragically wrong, and most importantly the heroes of freedom. For those who swing towards chaos on the side of goodness and the rights of the people the call to heroism comes when tyrants, slavers and oppressors threaten the people and their ability to live their lives in peace and quiet, without the demands of others to intrude. Sticking up for the little guy has the potential to lead people into trouble, and a tendency to run afoul of the law, but that’s all part of the fun for a CG character.

It’s one of the easiest alignments to play, but it’s worth looking into how to play Chaotic Good well.

Equality & Justice For Most

Law and it’s associated organisational structures have a tendency toward being easily exploited by the cruel and manipulative, and that tends to generate inequality and unfair treatment, and it’s exactly these injustices and inequalities a CG hero might seek to combat, but it’s not a must. It might simply be that a thief is content to leave the establishment untouched, but make a habit of taking things from them to redistribute, or a brutish mercenary might go hunting criminals in the underground with methods that local police might deem unnecessarily violent. You might seek to champion the cause of freedom, or you might just want the freedom to do what needs to be done.

Administration, bureaucracy, and all its trappings can often give villainous sorts more than enough time to wreak havoc while those who are supposed to be stopping them are busy making sure things are done properly, and that kind of restriction can rile a Chaotic Good character. The lawfully inclined may not draw distinctions between one criminal or another, no matter their intentions, and if a chaotic hero goes off on a well-meaning rampage then they may be regarded as playing judge, jury, and executioner. How does your character decide who deserves their attention?

The Problem With Anarcho-Syndicalism

Chaos, and a life without an authoritative force tends to form one; someone always wants to be in charge, and if they’re free to do so then crueller people will vie for the top spots. If you seek to overthrow the ruling force you run the risk of allowing another to rise, and if you live among the fringes of society you’ll often find yourself confronted by the worst of those who rule over society’s dregs. The problem with freedom is that people are free to do whatever they like, for some that steps on the toes of the freedom of others, and not everyone will use their freedom to go about their own business.

This raises some very serious ethical dilemmas for a CG character, at least those who care enough about the fate of the world to engage. Is it enough to keep swatting down villains until they take the hint, or should a vigilante lead by example, making themselves a symbol for all to aspire to. Anyone who has the kind of social impact heroes do must at some point confront the consequences of their actions, and a good person will face up to their responsibilities instead of shrugging it off, that’s for the neutrals and evils of the world.

For Example

People who travel through the Forest of Noon need to watch their step, and be sure not to destroy anything or kill the local wildlife. A local logging company still tells stories about how their trucks suddenly turned into hornet nests, and how their tree surgeons found themselves upside-down, dangling by the ankles from an ivy rope in the branches of the very trees they were supposed to be cutting down. No one knows what’s happening, how, or who could possibly be doing it, and for now she’d rather keep it that way. Let people say what they like about the Forest of Noon, so long as no one hurts it.

A character like Wolverine or Jessica Jones would easily be considered Chaotic Good, as both may despise authority and seek to pursue life their own way without interference they’ll ultimately end up doing the right thing. Despite a gruff and anti-social exterior they are fundamentally compelled to help save lives and protect anyone close to them, or even fight to defend a stranger when the cause is suitably just, and are unlikely to sit by and watch as someone else suffers. Unless they deserve it of course.

A singer has a tendency for writing songs deemed “troublesome” by the Earl, and his penchant for wearing an oversized novelty moustache in mockery of the Earl’s own is rather irksome. And yet every time the Early has the man arrested it seems to stoke some great rebellious fire amongst the people, the King’s guard are overworked by the little insurrections happening daily. Maybe it’s time to repeal the law about singing the damn minstrel’s songs on the street, but how is a duly appointed ruler to be taken seriously when he’s ritualistically mocked by his peons, underlings, and the common peasantry?

The crew of the Serenity in Firefly are almost entirely CG, with the exceptions of Inara, and possibly shepherd Book. They pursue criminal enterprises and illegal transactions that help keep tax revenue out of the hands of the Alliance, and to deliver help where it’s most needed. They stand up to anyone who seeks to stick a boot on someone’s neck whether they’re government or just some Ben Tian Sheng De Yi Dui Rou with a superiority complex.


Kitacon Quest – DMing 101 The Panel

On Saturday the 19th of August at 20:00 I will be giving my second panel ever. Considerably less interesting than doing my first, but still kind of a huge deal from where I’m sat. I fully intended to bring back my confidence building panel with some rather necessary improvements, I can’t claim to have been all that organised, but sadly someone seems to have beaten me to the punch as I was declined on the grounds that someone had submitted a very similar panel before I got to it. Not to worry, I always have a fallback: (more…)