RPGs need to consider how to better handle evil quests that go against moral alignments

I am on my second playing of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and enjoying it a lot.

However, as with other games, it still has difficulties with moral alignments. Basically, it doesn’t know how to handle it when players with “good” characters are asked to do evil quests.

For example, at one point my character is asked to slash some artwork in a gallery. If I refuse to do so, this shows up as a “failed” quest in my log. Yet, I didn’t “fail” the quest — I refused to do it because my character was an artist type and, logically, would be conflicted about destroying another artist’s work.

At another point, I run across a thoroughly evil flesh-munching vampire who asks me to lure an a relatively innocent NPC to their death. If I refuse to be a party to murder and tell the NPC to skip town, it is listed as a failed quest. Yet, I don’t recall agreeing to do it. I am presented with no choice. In this case, I lose out on two other side quests with powerful items as rewards.

UPDATE: I have since found a way to do the mission non-violently via dominating the NPCs mind and making him forget the event. However, it takes high social skills to do it and I don’t know if it works for classes without the dominate perk.

If I simply don’t accept a quest, the game shouldn’t list it as a failure.

Then we get to the problem of players trying to maintain a consistent moral alignment being punished via loss of experience points. If I don’t want to do your EVIL quest, then please let me have the option of another quest that isn’t in conflict with my morality in the game.

To use an absurd hypothetical, game logic thinks nothing of asking you to save some orphans — only to be asked later to burn down the orphanage. That doesn’t work. A good character who does good deeds on a consistent basis wouldn’t then go out and bask in Snidely Whiplash evil. Dr. Jekyll doesn’t normally become Mister Hyde. To use an Elder Scrolls example, someone who leads the Fighters or Companions Guild (the generally good guys) isn’t likely to then go join the Dark Brotherhood and commit contracted hits on the side.

So, if Character A wants me to slap around a puppy and I react with horror, then let them (or another NPC) offer me a make-up quest that isn’t so dark. I loved Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (SW:KOTOR), but there were quests I lost out on because they were “Dark Side” and it made no sense for a noble Jedi to do them. If you are going to have “extra credit” nasty quests, then balance them with some hero missions for the boring goodie two-shoes types I tend to play.

Finally, please don’t make it to where future side-quests from an NPC hinge on doing something diabolical. In Bloodlines there is minor character that can offer a couple of side-quests. The second quest is not objectionable, but the first one results in someone committing suicide in the game. Let me turn down the first quest, but then still have the option to do the later one. Also, let me have a “make-up” quest so I am not holding my nose doing nasty quests to get just one more level-up.

Sometimes games developers seem to lose sight of that RPG stands for Role Playing Game. You are playing a ROLE, which means your character has certain things they will or will not do to be consistent with their moral code.

Now, some games handle it better than others. SW:KOTOR tried to reward players for staying true to a light side or dark side path. Yet, your hero Jedi still would get offered side quests that were Sith fare. At a certain point on your moral code path, the game should simply not offer you quests that your character wouldn’t logically do.

Fallout 3 tried to allow for gray characters who were morally ambivalent, but it just didn’t work well. Someone who will save an NPC in one mission won’t then go out and randomly slaughter an innocent NPC later the same day.

Now, a gray character might lie, cheat, and steal, but they would have to draw the line at murder or excessive mayhem. They can be rogues within certain parameters, but they can’t cross over into out and out villainy and then go back to saving homeless kittens as if nothing happened.

Dudley Do-Right can’t tie Nell to the railroad tracks and Snidely Whiplash can’t be the one who rescues her. It would make no sense to do it in the cartoons and violates logic as much when something similar is done in games.


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