Moral and Ethical Ambiguity, Part 3 of 4 – Virtue
Ok, so we've chatted a bit about Morality and moral codes (back in part 2).…
I suspect that we’ve all had that moment while gaming when our characters finished a battle or encounter and suddenly had a whole lot of loot to determine how to divvy up and carry out. It’s a gaming staple – doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re playing in a fantasy, modern, or futuristic setting. But it seems to happen a whole lot more while playing a fantasy RPG like D&D.
For some time now we’ve lived in a world where computer roleplaying games (CRPGs) have been around. I remember playing Bard’s Tale, Might and Magic, and the Gold Box Forgotten Realms computer games like Curse of the Azure Bonds to name a few. And from then to now, the general pattern is your character or party heads out to find bad guys to fight, you fight the bad guys, and then you collect the loot. You may not be able to haul it all away, so you leave useless items behind and take the good stuff until you can sell it.
Most of those games came out while I was in high school or in college initially. And I have to admit I played the heck out of them and enjoyed myself quite a bit.
But by that point I had already been playing RPGs (especially Dungeons and Dragons, James Bond, and a few other games) for a good 3-5 years. In that few years, I went from being the treasure hoarding munchkin to GMing and trying to achieve some kind of game balance. Though it was fun to kill the monster and take the loot, that wasn’t necessarily the goal any more by the time I left that period of my life.
And yes, we did all the munchkin things you’d expect. It was 1st edition D&D so we were kicking butt and taking names, even going so far as fighting Tiamat in her lair. (And it’s been asked, so I’ll answer here – no, I don’t recall if it was on her home plane or the prime material plane, but we did it nonetheless and got hoards of loot as a result.) We went up against the forces of Orcus. Did we die? Not usually – the GM and the mood at the time typically gave us enough room to survive. Was it Monty Haul? Of course.
That however was a phase. It lasted a while and then we got tired of simply collecting every coin, scroll, potion, sword, wand, etc. just because it was there.
Now if you look at CRPGs you see the same thing happening over and over because there’s no GM there to prevent it. We (yes, I’m just as guilty) stuff our pockets, backpacks, and saddlebags with everything we can get our hands on that is of value and leave the rest. The good thing is that we do run out of room so there has to be a bit of prioritization typically. The bad thing is that typically we have an infinite amount of time to gather, sort, and figure out where to stash everything.
Because I and many other gamers of our generation moved from traditional pen-and-paper RPGs to CRPGs, we’re less apt to take a CRPG approach to our RPGs.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen others that have gone the other way – from computer to game table – that just don’t get that you can’t haul off the kitchen sink and curtains or the other inhabitants of a particular city might take it the wrong way. Maybe you can do that in a dungeon after you’ve cleaned it out – there’s a certain amount of time you have there. But not every situation has the benefit of time.
Have other GMs and groups run into this bizarre trend? If so, have you solved it? And if you solved it, how did you solve it? We’ve tried lots of things, but logic doesn’t seem to work in this case. Or perhaps we just haven’t provided the right object lesson… I don’t know.
Thoughts? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?