College Humor: RPG Heroes Are Jerks

By John Walker on March 23rd, 2010 at 11:03 pm.

We've all thought it.

This is a joke we’ve all been wanting to make for the longest time. Chances are you’ve thought it yourself as you’ve been playing an RPG. It’s extremely gratifying to see it done, and done extremely well. College Humor keeps nailing this stuff. Note I’m not giving the joke away in advance. Take a look below.

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116 Comments »

  1. yaster says:

    Now that we understand that simple fact may I have more games in Gothic-vein that concentrate only on being asshole?

    • Wulf says:

      Well, the thing is is that the majority choose to be arseholes is the bigger problem, rather than all RPG heroes actually being jerks. In a set storyline with little choices (or where the choices are cosmetic) you can’t help being a bastard, but I’ve found that many people choose that route anyway. I’m distinctly reminded of RPS’ own Space Bastard series of articles about Knights of the Old Republic.

      However, I’m in the minority it seems because I actually like playing the ‘good’ guy, and by that I specifically mean the hero that has a decent sense of ethics as it pertains to that world, I love a good ethical challenge where I can be a bastard, or I can take the road less travelled, the more difficult route, the one that’s ultimately going to bring me more hardships but would likely see a greater reward at the end of it. The best RPGs I’ve ever played have embraced this, and I’ve done things the hard way, I’ve done things that way so often merely because it was the right thing to do. There was an easy way out, there always was, but the easy way out meant being a bastard and having to hurt someone or do something particularly unethical to do it. That’s the choice of the majority, but it’s not my choice.

      And personally, I really hope that developers will keep choice in mind for future games. But this is one of the reasons I praise (and so openly love) Obsidian, because with all of their games the kinds of things that I’m talking about are always present, it’s like they have an ethical officer on scene who provides them with ideas for challenges, things that really test the strength of character of both the hero and the hero’s player. Do you do things the easy way and be a bastard, do you really rough it out and do the right thing just because that’s what you feel you must do, do you walk away, do you try and con your way through it… and so on, these are the choices that a great RPG would present you with, as par the course.

      So yes, because ‘I AM BASTARD!’ is the populist choice, it doesn’t mean that everyone opts to go that way, there will always be people who’ll want to take a different path, either borne out of their own individual urges, ethical drive, or whatever else. I like games where I can talk my way out of a fight and end up with a result that means I need to slay no one, I like being able to mediate between groups and finding the best outcome for both rather than just seeing who’d reward me the most, I dig that stuff, and I’ll love every RPG that gives me those choices.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      You raise some good points Wulf, but it’s actually easier to play the good guy than the bad guy.

      I understand the conflicts the good guy has to sometimes go, as you put them. And I agree entirely. By constantly keeping the in-game character moral values on their toes, It’s possible to follow a path less traveled and still succeed at the end. It’s a choice a gamer must make and I’ve been enjoying games that way too. Sometimes more as games where I played the hero jerk type, other times less.

      But it’s much harder to play the bad guy. There’s very, very few games where you can actually play an egotist bastard with a criminal mind, no matter what the game tells you about “You can be whoever you want to be”. In the end developers always fall for the trap of rewarding good behavior and penalizing bad behavior. I can start an evil Mage in Dragon Age Origins or Oblivion, for instance, but I won’t go far unless I help the poor villagers, free the weak or fight the oppressor. Because these are the tasks assigned to you.

      Now, I’m a role-player at heart. Too many years on my back of pen & paper I guess and a genuine love for acting. So I really want many times to play the evil guy. As many as the times I want to play the good guy. But games? Games don’t give me that option. So, while I share with you the love for games that give me moral choices (and hard ones at that), I suffer over the fact that’s actually just one small part of the problem. There’s really very little role-play choices in the vast majority of the games. No matter what they say.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      And note that Dragon Age was a particularly painful game to me on this aspect. The setting was perfect. You quickly lose count how many times you hear in the early stages of the game “Fight the darkspawn, no matter what”. You see Duncan assassinate Ser Jory. You are indoctrinated into this logic. It’s your choice how you will want to fight the Darkspawn.

      The stage is set. It’s a perfect argument to come up with a game that will finally offer you true moral choices. But you soon realize the game fails completely. Before you know it, you are already embroidered in help the defenseless quests and fighting to stay on Morrigan good side.

      Bah!

    • Wulf says:

      @Mario

      You’ve made a good post but there are some elements I just simply can’t agree with, and others I strongly disagree with, because what you say just doesn’t fit my experiences with roleplaying games, not at all, not of the tabletop sort or the PC sort.

      ISo let me counter you on a point for point basis.

      - Developers better reward good behaviour.

      I don’t think so, really.

      I remember that in Deus Ex, Morrowind, Oblivion, and Neveerwinter Nights 2 there were better general rewards for killing and stealing than there were for completing quests and earning trust. You might gain a really nice reward, and even possibly the best reward in the game, but the problem is this: If you’re a good guy, you can’t kill or steal, so you’re always strapped for cash, you can’t buy the shiny trinkets, you can’t steal them, you can’t kill for them.

      So as the bad guy is killing, stealing, and cheating their way through the game and getting constant upgrades, the good guy is actually still using a bloody cheap enchanted leather vest and hoping that some dungeon or quest will reward them with something better. Eventually they’ll get something better than the bad guy, but the good guy has to stick it out and endure more hardships in general because of that. So the good guy gets the occasional, rare, super-shiny reward which the bad guy would lust, but the bad guy is being constantly rewarded.

      - There’s really very little role-play choices in the vast majority of the games. No matter what they say.

      I disagree, everything in regards to the Wall of the Faithless was everything one could want in that regard, and more.

    • Wulf says:

      @Mario (Addendum)

      The only thing I can think of is that you’re just not being enough of a bastard in order to get all the rewards. But I remember playing a lot of games alongside a friend, and it would be grating because he’d take the evil route and I’d take the good route, and he was always bragging about something really nice he’d stolen, killed for, or cheated someone out of, something that I couldn’t do.

      And only rarely could I counter him by having something better, because most of the time quests rewarded me with lesser gains than he received, only occasionally were they equal, and only rarely were they better. But that’s the path of the good guy, it is arduous and indeed the harder route.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I didn’t explain myself well.

      Being rewarded from stealing or killing is not the type of reward I’m thinking here. That counts very little to me. It’s obvious you and I (and many others) share a common love for what the game offers in the plot above anything else. Heck, when role-playing with my mates as an evil character on AD&D, GURPS, Vampire the Masquerade or whatever, I didn’t bother steal from everyone or killing everything I met. That’s a maniac, not evil. A lunatic.

      Instead, it is the lack of an actually progression through quests. There’s rarely a plot for the evil guy. That’s the reward I was hoping to see implemented. A game that materializes the character alignment in the form of quests and allows them to play through the game as evil characters, instead of forcing them into evil characters that help the population.

      Surely some games went to greater lengths than others. Dragon Age offers me some interesting options in the way I can complete the main quests. But there’s really no plot line for a true Morrigan fan, is there? It’s just not possible to play that role in that game.

    • the wiseass says:

      @Wulf

      Usually I try to walk the righteous path, but sometimes I get punished for decisions that I would consider as just. Mass Effect is doing this particularly well, where sometimes you simply cannot fathom why you got these renegade points. In Dante’s Inferno I felt compelled to absolve every single heretic because honestly, you can’t possibly punish people for acting against the pope/church.

      The thing with these right/wrong questions in video games is that they are simply too single minded and one dimensional. I’d love to see games try to put us gamers into more morally ambiguous situations. Something like Albert Camus’ “les justes” or so….

    • Mman says:

      “However, I’m in the minority it seems because I actually like playing the ‘good’ guy”

      Actually, based on pretty much every bit of research about it I’ve heard (and my own experience for that matter), that puts you with the vast majority.

    • neems says:

      It doesn’t help that most of the behaviour that you saw in the video is not, in normal RPG terms, regarded as being incompatible with being the good guy. Obviously you are correct in that, in purely ethical terms, stealing everything that isn’t nailed down is bad. But most RPGs, and consequently most of the people who play them, will use ‘finding’ stuff as a core mechanic, while anything that the designers regard as a moral choice will invariably be sign posted, and often be of the ‘give the beggar 6 million gold pieces / kill the puppy’ variety.

      Because you are role playing (properly I mean) you approach the game mechanics in a different way, which will frequently leave you hamstrung because the designers don’t intend you to view picking up somebody elses property as evil. Obviously there are exceptions to this.

  2. Shrewsbury says:

    Oh god, it was the bit after the ending that got me.

  3. kyrieee says:

    Hehe, kinda funny

  4. Heliosicle says:

    That was pretty good, reminded me of oblivion/dragon age :D

    • Wulf says:

      Not so much Oblivion in my case, as in Oblivion it was possible to be a fairly nice person if one played their cards right and took their choices carefully.

    • Koozer says:

      Oblivion also has NPCs react to you breaking into their house and stealing their stuff. In a lot of other RPGs NPCs ARE just background scenery. To me that’s the major reason why we don’t think twice about rummaging through people’s cupboards – the owner doesn’t give a damn.

  5. TeeJay says:

    It is wierd that some RPG developers put so much effort into building up a “character”, giving people “important ethical decisions” about the main story or various side-quests, yet casually have you spend the entire game looting every single non-hostile house you come across, often in full view of the occupants.

    Some games deal with this much better, having you attacked by guards, losing reputation with factions and other party-NPCs and being refused service from traders – so that it is a question of either deliberately choosing to take an evil/selfish route or doing your thieving out of site of any witnesses. Another option was sometimes to ‘make up for’ the thieving by equal and opposite ‘good deeds’. In any case the decision to go round pillaging people’s home always involved a ‘cost-benefit’ calculation as to whether the potential loot was worth the negatives and or time/effort/resopurces required to not get caught.

    I think this thread needs a list of games that have managed to do this well. I’d suggest that the Baldur’s Gate and Morrowind games both had a reasonable systems.

    • Rosti says:

      @TeeJay – I’m hugely late to the party, but 4 hours into playing Deus Ex I’ve already been presented with the most effective moral choice in any game I can recall. Whilst busy “non-lethally” disposing of some naughty terrorist types, I triggered their surrender. Normally that’d be excellent in saving time and resources, but from a previous failed attempt I knew that the man in front of me was carrying tranquilliser darts – gold dust for tricky non-lethal takedowns. And as we all know, non-lethal takedowns are always the most silent way to eliminate resistance.

      There’s nothing stopping me bopping him on the back of his head and taking his stuff, of course, and it’ll help me ‘save’ lives! I think what got to me was the fact that there were no in-game rewards for either option, beyond the darts themselves. In making the choice to not bop him, it led me to realise I was defining myself as less-psychotic-that-my-co-workers. Basically, it put me in a position where it just felt so *wrong* to take advantage of these people.

      Obviously, that sort of event can’t the basis for any reasonable system – eventually you’ll stop caring about the weight of your actions within the context of the story or already have decided to be a git.

      Although I may have already pulled the pin on a fire extinguisher just before the surrender was called, so there was some coughing…

    • Wulf says:

      The Obsidian games did too with the right mods, I’d note.

      And besides, you have the ethical choice of looting a person’s house or not looting a person’s house.

      What I chose to do was loot the rich mansions, and then spread some of that money back among the poorer, less well off merchants that I’d found, which is usually my creed when it comes to theft. I’d always go for money too, rather than the personal effects.

      Really it’s all about how much you want to roleplay your character, as the option is there.

    • mejobloggs says:

      @ Wulf

      Maybe I’ve just been playing the wrong games, but…

      There are no ethical decisions of looting houses… Do they people die because they have no food? No. Are the inconvenienced in the slightest way because stuff is missing? No

      Stealing is bad because it then the other person doesn’t have it. But afaik no games have ‘loot ownership’. As in, if you loot, you’ve taken something that didn’t belong to anyone anyway, so it’s not stealing

    • mejobloggs says:

      lol woops. Clearly wasn’t concentrating when writing that. How do I edit?

    • DMcCool says:

      Morrowind/Oblivion have loot ownership. Stealing in Oblivion WAS going to be actually morally bad (it would leave whoever you stole from with no food so they’d have to find some..by stealing, perhaps..) but they couldn’t balance the economy without random town-wide brawls so they gave people chests that spawn food in the end, as far as I understand.

    • neems says:

      @Deus Ex – if these are bad guys who have surrendered, I don’t think anybody would have any qualms about you removing weapons from their persons. Leaving a terrorist with a bunch of tranquilisers while you go off galivanting seems like an odd choice :-)

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      See Ultima series for further examples of games where this problem is addressed.kthx

  6. Bowlby says:

    Fallout 3 is just about the only RPG I can think of where you get morally penalised for stealing.

    • El Stevo says:

      @ Bowlby:

      Fable

    • Lack_26 says:

      Fallout 3 was one of the few RPGs where I didn’t feel the desire to steal everything I could, the people had so little as it was (and what they did have was primarily rusty tin cans).

      Oblivion on the other hand was just an excuse for me to steal absolutely everything ever. I was like a cloud of locus, I’d descend on a city and steal absolutely everything I could find until there wasn’t an item left. Then I’d hide it in a chest. I think I must have looted every city on one of my saves, what can I say, I’m not a crime wave, I’m a crime tsunami.

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      drewski says:

      It’s the pointlessness of the thievery that amuses. Did you loot for gold? For riches? For power?

      No, I looted to fill up crates with useless trinkets! Muahahaah!

      Having just finished Fable and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down, I think their system got it reasonably well, although the punishment for being caught stealing was only a small fine or being booted out of the town you were in. I think Morrowind had the best system I can recall.

    • Wulf says:

      There are mods for other games which really drive this home as well.

      One of my favourite NWN2 scripts was one that actually knocked you more towards evil with every chest you looted, so there was this careful balance of only looting the chests you felt were worth looting, and then doing some very nice things to make up for it.

      As I said in a previous reply, I’d just stick to looting rich mansions, and then I’d make my Good balance back up for what I’d taken.

    • yonassassin says:

      Ultima IV introduced the concept of virtues to the series, in which stealing was penalised.

      You could indeed choose to run around town and loot everyone’s chest, as is standard RPG practice, but your Honesty score would drop. In Ultima IV, this would mean you weren’t virtuous enough to complete the game.

      You would similarly be penalised for cheating at shops, attacking non-evil creatures, fleeing from battle, talking in a proud manner, etc. Your virtue would even rise for dying in battle as this was an expression of your willingness to sacrifice yourself for others.

  7. WilPal says:

    Not amused. :(

  8. Jahkaivah says:

    Seen that joke been made countless times.

    Also Tetris God:

  9. Radiant says:

    This is why you must always play rpgs as a rogue or a thief.
    Link is the worlds biggest bastard that spoilt brat.

  10. the wiseass says:

    Old joke is old :(

  11. Markoff Chaney says:

    If you haven’t thought that, you haven’t played enough RPGs. Nice share, thank you! The Tetris God one made me laugh as well.

  12. noom says:

    True, and quite nicely done ^_^

    That’s always annoyed me in games. I like to get into my character in RPGs and when a game not only fails to punish you for arsehole behaviour but actually leaves you worse off for not doing so it really grates against immersion.

    House hunting (as I have decided to coin it) is one example; I also resent missing out on experience points for not butchering innocent animals.

    • DMcCool says:

      People find it easy to dismiss this arguement with “Oh but you’re just not roleplaying!. This is of course, rubbish retort. There should be concequences, maybe the people should plead with you no to rob them and maybe when you return later if you DID rob them you might find them bankrupt, maybe they had to move out or the old lady in the video died without her medicine. Until there are concequences to you actions you are being totally moral in stealing their junk. They aren’t using it, you will. As soon as we become accostomed to this sorts of reactions then we’ll all stop acting like jerks. Or maybe we won’t. At least we’ll actually being jerks, right?

    • Wulf says:

      @DMc

      That’s actually a really good idea, and I’ve used mods in the past to achieve some of this goal because I believe that evil acts should be punished. But the truth of the matter is that because the majority of the player-base seems to enjoy the bastard role, I actually think developers might be afraid to punish the player too much for being an evil bastard because that way they’d be punishing the largest group of buyers.

      Shame really.

      But then, that’s why mods exist.

    • DMcCool says:

      You misunderstand. I’m not proposing there being penalties for stealing people’s stuff -quite the oppesite. The idea is you will be ruining other people’s lives, or annoying them. At the very worst you might get a bad reputation but the point here is you are still getting a net gain. Your quest is easier, but at what cost?

      Its just one step in the direction of telling a story in totally game terms. Next step is you ACTUALLY saving these people from whatever the big bad is. As apposed to a cut scene telling you that you are. Actually Bethesda and Bioware are playing with this idea more and more, which is great.

    • Colthor says:

      @Noom (and Wulf, etc.)

      Why should good people be rewarded in a game? They’re not in real life. Doing/taking anything you can get away with is how you get ahead. It’s also not generally considered ‘good’. Virtue is its own reward, not a +5 Sword of Slaying.

      (Besides, if – like in BioShock – the good route is more rewarding, people will take it for that reason alone. It wouldn’t be a good act, it’s just self-interest; in that case, being evil would just be stupid. It renders the moral choice pointless.)

      By all means, show negative consequences of selfish acts, but the ‘evil’ player should be materially better off, if they can get away with it – that is, after all, the point.

  13. Matzerath says:

    College Humor always circles the periphery of funny, but never quite makes it all the way. They get closer than Saturday Night Live, but fall far short of The Onion.

  14. noom says:

    To anyone saying “old” and “not funny” and such:

    Well done on surfing the zeitgeist of internet memes. I envy your knowledge of what is cool and what is not cool. Now fuck off.

    • MarkN says:

      My sentiments exactly (the fuck off part especially). Try being that smug, petty-minded and superior when a friend of yours tells a joke you already know whilst in actual human company and I’d hope you’d get told to stop being an unbearable twat by every other person present, because it’s a horrible way to be.

      Just because you’re on the internet doesn’t mean you have to be a hateful loathsome joyless mean-spirited twat…

    • robrob says:

      Well said Brazil avatar man.

    • DMcCool says:

      Calm down, was anyone being that insulting? I didn’t find the joke at all funny for reasons mentioned (its old/obvious and wasn’t that well executed..humour on the level of a secondary school drama improsiation but with costumes.) As you point out it’d be funny if you knew the people who made the joke but takes a different level of humour anyway.

      I always want to find College Humour funny, they make jokes about things I’d make jokes about but..always fall short on the delivery. In my opinion they just aren’t very funny people. And no i’m not saying that to anyone’s face I’m typing an opinion on a comment thread on another website. Does that make me a “hateful loathsome joyless mean-spirited twat”?

      Sorry, that was a rant. Its just only one side of this discussion is being abusive and sweary, I just wanted to point that out. People can have opinions man. Peace and love man, peace and love.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      @MarkN

      Personally I was just observing the frequency if this joke being made in the past, but I’m somewhat inclined to say somebody who calls somebody a hateful loathsome joyless mean-spirited twat, has done less to help enforce friendly conversation.

      But enough of such deterioration, this is a happy website :)

    • the wiseass says:

      Wow, so some people merely state in an otherwise respectful manner that they did not enjoy the video as much because the joke was stale and predictable and you are telling them to “f*ck off” instead?
      You know, between friends we tell each other if a joke has been told before or was simply not that funny. But we never tell each other to “f*ck off” only because they didn’t like it.
      I’m beginning to wonder who is the “unbearable twat” here. At least I did not revert to such unnecessary hateful and colourful language to insult people who actually liked this one.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      RPS is not the place for snarky comments. (You’ll want Rum Doings for that – arf!)

      ‘Old joke is old’ and ‘Not funny’ are negative posts without any meat to the criticism. These brief comments are throwaway jibes that bring down the mood of those who found the piece funny and, worse, they lower the quality of the discussion.

      Being negative isn’t really the sin here, but you need some explanation to go with your stance.

    • the wiseass says:

      Oh an there I was thinking the criticism in “old joke is old” was pretty self explanatory, sorry. But if you’d like a somewhat more in depth criticism from my part, scroll further down. Honestly, that doesn’t excuse other people to tell me to “f*ck off”. I do not resent other people for liking the joke, so why should anybody resent somebody who doesn’t?

      Also I do not post negative comments only. When the Tosser joke was made, I liked it and I expressed it too. Many people did not like it, but I never made an issue out of this. Also I think that the Tetris video was funnier, because it was kind of original. So you see, I’m not being negative just to be negative so stop making assumptions and insults please.

      You know, that’s what the comment section is there for, to express your opinion on something that was posted above.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    But, but…

    If I steal from a poor peasant in a game implementing anti-steal, the ragged peasant wants to attack me in my glorious Dragon Armor of Might and Vorpal Sword of Maiming!

    Clearly, there’s more to this problem than meets the eye.

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      drewski says:

      I look at it this way – sure, I might have stolen your life savings, your personal possessions and destroyed most of your house, but at least I didn’t eat you like the dragon I’m going to kill would have.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Yeah. That and there’s not really any dialog line reading “Excuse me, but I really need all your stuff. I wish I didn’t, but I do. Now please move aside. This will be over in a minute. Blame it on the game economy”, or “Get your fucking hands in the air. Stop talking! This is a robbery! What? Are you looking at me? Are you looking at me? Just, just look at me again. I beg you, LOOK AT ME AGAIN!”

  16. Teachable Moment says:

    You didn’t need to worry about giving the joke away in advance, the subhead on the site itself did that.

    Typical of the CH, FoD style though, an already-weak one-joke premise that gets too much invested in it (sets, makeup, etc etc) so it has to go on far longer than the material supports and might – not always – have one genuine laugh. At least there was an actual punchline this time – that was hysterical!

  17. John Walker says:

    My goodness, some people are miseryguts. Yes, of course it’s an old joke. But I note the distinct lack of links to these examples of where it’s been done better. Or indeed done at all.

    • FreezerBag says:

      No spoilers. There’s a similar, and possible better joke in Mass Effect 2.

      “And sometimes, I rifle through trash cans.”

      Which made me genuinely laugh.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      @The walking one

      I’ve seen the gag done alot in gaming webcomics, but being such as their nature they tend to be so forgettable that I couldn’t begin to source an example.

      To be fair this is probably the most elaborate attempt at such joke.

    • the wiseass says:

      You know it’s like visiting your grandfather who’s telling you the same joke every time you’re visiting him. Now it may be a great joke and he may tell it in the best way possible, but it still won’t change the fact that you’ve heard it countless time before.

      If I remember correctly a variation of this joke have been done in the “Gamers: Dorkness Rising” movie. And here are some more recent variations of the same theme:

      http://nerfnow.com/comic/195
      http://nerfnow.com/comic/231
      http://digitalunrestcomic.com/index.php?date=2010-01-04

      Now don’t get me wrong, the sketch was well made n’stuff, but I knew what was going to happen even before I clicked on that play button and yeah, that kinda ruined it for me. If other people enjoyed it more, I’m glad for them. But you’re right, you don’t go telling your grandfather that you’ve heard the joke countless times before…

    • terry says:

      I liked the joke.

      PS Want to buy some jerseys?

    • BooleanBob says:

      I think Icewind Dale 2 probably made this joke best for me. One of the chapter subheadings in a in-game book called ‘How To Be An Adventurer’?

      Face It, You’re Actually ‘Neutral Evil’

    • malkav11 says:

      One of many RPG cliches mocked in this Something Awful article (from 2003):
      http://www.somethingawful.com/d/guides/guide-how-survive.php

  18. alinkdeejay says:

    One word (I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet):

    Herotax

    If you’re going to go off on your own into dungeons to save the land and fight demigods and armies of the undead, you deserve the right to take everything you like.

    If anything the npcs are jerks for making you pay for better swords and food and that kind of stuff.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      >> If anything the npcs are jerks for making you pay for better swords and food and that kind of stuff.

      Amen!… Sort of…

      They can charge you alright. Everybody needs to make a living. But either give convincing arguments for it, or don’t have NPCs selling you at 10x-20x the price they purchase from you. If there is something really missing from the vast majority of RPGs is a credible economy.

    • Ricc says:

      Well, a lot of RPG have you start you out as a peasant yourself (or a shipwrecked amnesiac…), so it’s still mostly inappropriate. Or does that make it more feasible?

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t agree, really.

      I mean, as the silver-tongued good guy worthy of much trust (as I’ve been in every game that allows me to do that), I’ve often found that because I’m so charismatic and just an all-round decent person merchants are usually falling over themselves to give me discounts. Depending on the merchant (poor/rich), I will either tell them they’re being too kind and pay the full amount anyway, or I’ll take them up on their offer!

      The hero tax is offset by the bastard element, if you want to be a bastard and steal everything then you can’t expect people to like you or trust you. They’re going to start wondering which is really the lesser evil, the so-called ‘hero’ or that which the hero ‘may one day get around to saving them from, if only to loot the palace of the questionably more evil bugger who’s been making them suffer’.

      I really don’t see what the bad thing about choice is. If you want to be a bastard then people should be distrustful, if you’re a nice guy then people tend to end up tripping over themselves in an effort to help you out.

    • Kommissar Nicko says:

      HERO TAX IT IS. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to endure Mr. Questgiver McGuffin telling me, “Oh yes, thank you for volunteering to save my shit. I’ll give you all the help I can, in the form of these guys who will sell you some real premium shit. Also, they’ll buy your stuff off you for pennies on the dollar. Thank me later!” Nobody ever acknowledges in a realistic fashion that you’re really pulling their asses out of the fire, especially not with any monetary or materiel help. I’ve saved cities, prevented kingdoms from slipping into destruction, etc., but paid every single person top dollar along the way…

    • Wilson says:

      @Wulf – I always feel like I’m being ripped off by RPG merchants. Even if they do give me a discount, it’s still irritating to sell a magic sword for 2000 gold and see them mark it up to 10000. Especially if you’re on a quest to save the world, it feels like they’re taking the piss. I feel conned both ways (all the stuff I buy is overpriced, and I sell everything at a stupid discount), and so my character feels like a naive fool for not even arguing.

    • Jeremy says:

      I dunno about this, have you ever tried selling anything to a second-hand shop?

  19. Muzman says:

    Apparently this kind of thing isn’t all that far from how knights actually used to behave in medieval times. They did whatever the hell they pleased really. Who knew all those gameplay conveniences were a history lesson?

  20. x25killa says:

    What? There was no murdering? For shame.

    • Feste says:

      Making a sword of seven grandmother’s heads doesn’t count as murdering!? Now I’m really worried :)

  21. Sauyadav says:

    That is exactly what I do :P

  22. The Colonel says:

    Can we see one done for conversations in Oblivion? I remember hearing about that in one of the RPS podcast wotsits and realised I’d clearly missed some hilariously nerdy chatting up ladies that everyone else had been doing around me whilst I’d been dancing or something. Anyone know off the top of their head which podcast that was in?

  23. Wulf says:

    Things I’ve taken away from this:

    - The ‘be a bastard in all things’ really is the populist choice, as I’d always suspected.
    - The ‘be a bastard’ majority don’t seem to look into mods that much.

    I’m the opposite of both of those, I love me some mods and even mods that punish me for being evil (which may or may not aid in my task of truly being a stand-up bloke), and I tend to always meet whatever ethical challenges I’m given. I don’t know why, it’s just what I enjoy, and I’m actually kind of proud of it.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    @ Wulf

    Do the majority of people play the bastard route?

    I’m not quite so sure. I kow this is completely anecdotal but the vast majority of my friends who play RPGs always go down the “good” route when it comes to ethics. At least on their first playthrough. They might not all be paragons of complete virtue but most will err on the ethical side.

    Of course we’ll all happy steal right left and centre. I do find it kind of odd that I don’t really think twice in the majority of games at stealing from people’s homes even when taking the ethical path (I’d never use a pick pocket skill though!). I’ve not really played an RPG which makes me think twice about looting. If I did I almost certainly wouldn’t or i’d at least adopt your style of Robin Hoodd approach. it’s definitely a disconnect for the game as it’s just something you feel you need to do to get by – particularly in the early stages of a game.

    • Wulf says:

      Maybe I was being a little harsh, but that’s just how it seems to me, you know? This comments thread seems to paint a similar picture, too. I’m even seeing some ‘oh, the nobility of the bad guy!’ stuff, and I find that so vexing, so utterly rankling that I have no words for how it makes me feel, really. Suffice it to say, it’s wrong and it’s annoying.

      But that’s what I get as the general vibe. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from what you’ve said, because I think it’s absolutely awesome that you and your friends try to take the road seemingly less travelled, that you choose to be good guys, I think that’s bloody fantastic and it gives me a great deal of respect for you and your friends. It really does.

      I suppose it’s just–in general–a feeling I can’t get away from.

      As for being punished for raiding chests, check out the Neverwinter Vault and look for override scripts that effect stealing and actually have negative outcomes for doing so, it can actually make a game feel really different when you know that looting a chest could give you some nice items, but it could also impact you in a way that you find strongly undesirable.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Lambchops, I can think of numerous games that have some sort of punishment system in place for stealing. But I’m on an indie mood, so I’m saying an indie title:

      Eschalon, Book I

      But you are somewhat right. Games that do it are less common than games that don’t do it.

    • Klaus says:

      Being the bastard gets easier the more you do it, I’ve found. It’s a very slippery slope. I started as a bastard in Baldur’s Gate 2 for the sake of curiosity (left Jaheira and Minsc to die, first time ever) and before I knew it I was the lord of murder and raked over 1700 kills. Man, was I merciless.

      The problem with this concept in Dragon Age and Mass Effect (for me) is that the characters show expression. I occasionally like calling Morrigan a bitch but I dislike making her and the others feel bad. These characters have joined you on your quest to save whatever and they shouldn’t have to put up with a sociopathic, bipolar boss. As it’s you starting a conversation just to ridicule and demean them. But as I said, once you’re cruel once it gets so easy.

      I suppose the first step is the hardest. I only left Jaheira and Minsc to die once and only kicked Morrigan out of the party once. :(

      Being mean to Alistair is kind of funny though.

      Warden – “Duncan deserved what he got!”
      Alistair – >:(

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      @Wulf: On the subject of whether people more often play good or evil when given the choice: I’m reminded of the comments threads on JWs Bastard of the Old Republic series. Those threads (here and on Eurogamer) were full of people who were saying “oh hey, I always play the good guy too! I feel all guilty when I’m mean.” The digital sadists were conspicuously few.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      @ Wulf – yes, it’s wrong that different people enjoy playing games in different ways. Everybody should play games how you, and you alone, enjoy them.

      Seriously?

      I like playing the kindhearted kleptomaniac. I take all the good options, save everyone’s lives, am kinda to party members…and I steal everything that isn’t nailed down. What can I say, it’s a lot of fun. I’ll usually take the karma hit in a game where that applies, figuring that saving a town from a nuke/killing the guy who wants to enslave the world/stopping my evil former self is worth the karmic loss of nicking a necklace because it’s shiny.

    • Lilliput King says:

      There was an article in PCGUK a while back that seemed to suggest the vast majority of players chose the good option in every clearly signposted moral choice section of RPGs. Then subsequently some dev houses complaining that no-one was exploring their evil sections so it was a waste of time making them.

      I can’t find the article online and don’t have the time to look through the physical back catalogue, so this is purely anecdotal.

      Seems to equate to most peoples attitudes in this thread, though, and with the people I know who play RPGs. If there’s an obvious good and bad, they’ll take good, every time. I’m not actually sure this is on moral grounds, though. I haven’t got around to playing some of the indie RPGs mentioned here yet, but I suppose I’ve played the vast majority of mainstream RPGs, and the philosophy generally seems to be that good and evil players end up on the same plane by the end of the game. If you’re evil, you’re rewarded for being evil, and if you’re good, hell, good on you, have a reward which equates with the evil one.

      I say generally, though, because every now and then an example comes up of a hard to make decision which really tempts you towards the evil side of things , and it’s all the more refreshing for it’s rarity. My favourite is probably the transport visas in KoTOR 2. You get the option to give a couple of these out to the people wanting traffic off a planet about to erupt into civil war, and they’re the usual suspects – wronged single mother of two, weapons smuggler, government agent etc. The kicker is that the mother can offer you nothing whatsoever and the weapons smuggler offers a unique, powerful lightsaber crystal or a vast sum of credits, and after you make your decision you never hear anything more of it. It’s a interesting experience when you realise the game isn’t going to prop you up or reward you for being good. The Jedi’s life is sacrifice, the game is saying. Be strong, or be weak.

    • Bowlby says:

      I’m generally the good guy in any RPG, but if every game from now on had a Vigilante QTE for every moral choice, then I say: more punchy, less talky.

      :D

  25. Wulf says:

    Final thoughts: You know…

    Considering how penniless my characters are, thanks to; refusing to steal, refusing money offered by poor people as a reward, not killing anyone, not cheating anyone, not taking discount offers by poor merchants and so on… I actually have an idea of how Detective Dick Gumshoe feels. >.>

    It’s kind of funny that despite my silver-tongued character being able to talk a discount out of anyone, I usually still can’t afford the things I find in those shops anyway, and often I just have to set my sights on one thing and save up for it.

    I’m also curious whether–after all this–I’ve inspired anyone to actually try playing it my way, remaining almost a bloody peasant to the end of the game due to not really having a horde of riches to fall back on. It makes the game interesting, I can tell you that. And hard, very, very hard, playing on a hardcore difficulty whilst trying to achieve the above is probably not recommended.

    If it’s an Obsidian game though, you’ll be raking in the respect from your party, so that’s nice!

  26. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Cheers for the suggestions guys, I’ll try and remember to look back at them in a couple of months time when I’ll have plenty of time to get stuck into an RPG.

  27. perilisk says:

    Heh, last night in Mass Effect 2 my paragon Shepard robbed a couple’s wall safe right in front of them on Omega (note: no renegade points, nor do they notice or complain).

    Then he went a few corridors down and lectured a couple of people about looting the homes of the dead. What a hypocrite.

  28. MarkN says:

    @Jahkaivah et al: FWIW, I never actually called anybody anything. I just suggested people might not want to be hateful loathsome joyless mean-spirited twats on the internet. If people think they fall into that category and get offended then that’s their problem.

    @the wiseass: “old joke is old :(” is about as flippant and dismissive and hackneyed (and in some ways elitist) a response as I could imagine as a reply to this post. You might call it “respectful” – it certainly doesn’t come across that way to me.

    At least my swearing was mine (apart from the “fuck off” that I quoted, which was admittedly the best bit).

  29. Klaus says:

    lol. I do remember that, and then I remember failing trying to justify it and just went on playing.

  30. nichevo says:

    Thought I’d mention a couple of things seemingly unmentioned.

    In Ultima 7 (and probably many other Ultima games), your very virtuous party members don’t like to see you stealing. I seem to remember they’d only give one or two warnings before they’d leave and refuse to have anything to do with you ever again — no trivial thing. Of course, you could always leave them in the pub while you did your crimes…

    In Fable 2 crime actually makes towns poorer. And I believe if you do it enough it’ll actually chage the physical appearance of some towns over the lengthy “intermission” period.

    There’s also a moral choice in Fable 2 that, despite feeling a little shoe-horned in, I thought was quite impressive. Someone has to age and go all ugly — and it’s either you or an innocent townsperson. It’s very rare that a game threatens you with anything permanent and always-noticable like that. Oh… and you also have about a thirty-second time-limit to decide. Oh… and Fable 2 (on the consoles at least) does not allow multiple saves for the same character ([i]normally[/i] not a big problem) and would probably auto-save right after you made your choice. It’s a decision that made me squirm and that’s exactly what I liked about it!

    • DMcCool says:

      I didn’t know crime actually made towns poorer in Fable II. Dammit, if only it was a PC game with a constuction set (ala Morrowind/Oblivion) Fable II could have flourished into the best RPG ever. If only all those great touches could be worked upon we’d never have to play the dull combaty bits (or they wouldn’t matter).

  31. bill says:

    One of the first things that endeared Chrono Trigger to me was the clever way it dealt with this. I won’t post it here as it was a nice surprise, but those peasants need to go the same route… after all they are americans!

  32. Robomutt says:

    I can’t be arsed to do a relevant remake of Space Asshole

  33. Simuri says:

    For some reason I’ve been thinking more along the lines of “How to make an Arch-Nemesis”.

    It would be so much more fun if the low level peons you steal from, insult, slaughter families of or beat up would instead of giving up or attempting a futile assault, would go away, grieve/plot and come back in force at some later date.

    Ah, how I would love an intelligent AI.

  34. Grunt says:

    Lovely John posts a teeny little joke for the amusement of us all. What do we do? Debate the issues behind it as a serious, weighty game-playing topic (I can see the furrowed brows and thinking poses from here) and even start a little hostility towards each other.

    Time to lighten up, methinks.

    It is an old joke but I still laughed at the knight wearing the wedding dress and the sword made of old ladies. Job done. :)

  35. Nimic says:

    I doubt that most people play the ‘bad’ guy. Certainly from my experience that’s not true. I’m happy to play either way, and indeed I’ll finish most games having played it both ways, but my cousin is a good example of the opposite. He was a KotOR fan long before me, and eventually he talked me in to playing it. But it turns out he’s never finished it as a Sith. It’s a big part of the game, and he hasn’t done it. I think he just can’t bring himself to continuously be a bastard. I have some problems with that myself, but I just take breaks, and it’s fine. I usually manage to ‘roleplay’.

    Same with Mass Effect, though you’re not even truly evil there, just a bastard.

  36. Tei says:

    FACT: All games studios are decorated with crates. Is almost mandatory wen you design a office for a game studio to put crates everywhere. Crates, and more crates, some crates inside other crates, some rooms full of crates (So no one can enter).

    As a result wen graphics artist create map for games, always put crates everywhere. Or chest, or bottles, … a chest is a crate with a different shape.

    FACT: A well designed RPG put lots of nice things hidden in these crates.

    It only make sense to check all crates in the gamme, and collect the gold, mana botles, health botles, and use all these to beat the dragon, or buy a +5 blade.

    FACT: The only sane way to play a RPG is roleplaying a rogue-wizard. Is consistent with your actions, and your actions will be consistent with a world full of crates for the taking.

    I put my hat and wizard robe…

    • Mr_Day says:

      “I put my hat and wizard robe…”

      In a crate for someone to steal?

  37. bill says:

    I thought his revenge would be the standard NPC revenge: stand infront of the door and refuse to let you out.

    RPG heros might be able to save the world, but they can’t defeat door blocking npcs

  38. Chuckles says:

    RPS free and informed debate on PC Games, but no no critising the jokes! That is not allowed! You will laugh! You will!

  39. Malagate says:

    I love it when the “looting hero” gets subverted, the only really good examples I can think of are in Zelda games though. Link’s Awakening for example, if you managed to steal from the shopkeeper then everyone on the island calls you THIEF, heaven help you if you returned to the shop after stealing…
    Majora’s Mask has done it the best however, but only with 1 NPC. The little girl living in the undead desert area, if you don’t knock on the door (hit it with your sword) before going inside she will kick you out, if you break anything in the house she will kick you out and all of this will happen whilst she gives you a major dressing down. It’s just a shame she’s the only one that does it!

    I think something like it could be implemented with a bit of effort, you know just have a few context sensitive buttons so you can choose which action when you get to a door (knock, barge in, peep inside…) and appropriate responses from NPCs if they detect you (i.e. come to the door and open it if you knock, question you and tell you to get lost if you barge in, get worried and start making deals with you if you draw your weapon, run for help if you turn away from them for long enough…). All towns with NPCs that do that could really add a nice flavour, especially if you are given the choice to talk and indeed lie to them (“I’m here on order of the Inquisition, step aside or I’ll see you on the racks!” *steals silverware*).

  40. Risingson says:

    Ok. I like my computer RPGs being simple in my point of view. If i can steal, I will, only if it’s necessary. I prefer talking rather than fighting, and find it way more rewarding. If someone asks me to retrieve something, I will do and only take money if they beg me too.

    That’s because lines of dialog and exploration are the rewards for me. The only thing I’m addicted to, and that’s why I always take a good thief/rogue as a character, is unlocking chests. Just to see what’s inside.

  41. Nick says:

    I liked Link’s Awakening’s take on this when you tried to loot peoples cests and stuff it said ‘Link checked the chest. Wow, that is a nice chest!’

  42. mrrobsa says:

    This and Tom Bissell’s GTA4 piece remind me that I want more games to have a non-violent interaction option, like a high-five button or something (I totally just reminded myself of ToeJam & Earl, yes!).
    Though I read Molyneux talking about Fable III’s ‘touch’ ability, so maybe thats going to scratch my itch.

  43. Chris D says:

    The best place this joke has been done is in Bard’s Tale( the remake). The whole game is essentially a running gag on this theme. There’s a narrator who looks on disapprovingly. Early on you strike a deal with a barrel maker who rewards you if you drive up business by smashing everything in sight. There’s also no shortage of peasants who answer back as you rob them blind.

    It’s also on steam relatively cheap if you’re interested, it’s definitely worth a look

  44. noom says:

    OK, not gonna deny that was an overly aggressive post; I was feeling somewhat cranky. I’m all about the peace and love DMc, which is exactly why these dismissive comments rankle me so much.

    Hell, I didn’t even find the video that funny either. saying “Not funny” though… that’s just so… internet

  45. Leonard Hatred says:

    Virtually all RPGs are played as Lawful Evil anyway. Lawful Evil by way of Sociopathic.

    The moral choices largely boil down to “what actions will get me the result i want”? my own personal favorite with regards to this was KOTOR where i found myself being super-nice to keep my light-side topped up so i could periodically unleash my bastardy when it’d be most gratifying..

  46. Premium User Badge

    Thermal Ions says:

    Well I appreciated it.

    Had me thinking about all the NPC’s I’ve been pickpocketing in AC2 lately. Don’t need the money any more, it’s just become a habit, and it’s so easy to reduce one’s notoriety at will – just pay off a herald then pickpocket the money back from him.

  47. Mr_Day says:

    A lot of rpgs are so sure you are going to loot everything you see they put pretty good stuff in simple peasant houses. It is only recently that people tried to make it seem that it was actually a bad idea – my personal favourite being the human looters in ME2.

    What are you doing? Looting? In a quarantine zone? Cads! Bounders! Arseholes! Ignore the four or five apartments I bypassed security to get into and steal all the money from some dead aliens, you guys are dicks!

    Sometimes a game tries to make you feel bad. Take Link’s Awakening:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V1wAGpbRAE

    And even when you load up, everyone calls you a Thief instead of the name you entered. Brilliant! Except you don’t get similar treatment for looting a peasant house to get enough money to buy these things.

  48. Rinox says:

    Re: consequences for stealing/doing (minor) bad things: in Dragon Age: Awakening, I noticed the guards of the entire city of Amaranthine will say things like “Guess you can buy anyone these days” and “the Grey Wardens are nothing but thieves” if you use your stature and power as the Grey Warden Commander for helping thugs for cash. Makes sense.

    • Leonard Hatred says:

      i seem to remember being flagged hostile to the inhabitants of certain areas for stealing their stuff,

      pretty sure it was NWN 1 or 2.

  49. GetOutOfHereStalker says:

    Oh hog what morality should I take the money of the virtual pretend peasant or not!?!?

  50. malkav11 says:

    It’s been my experience that good is the default path that you are inevitably channeled into in virtually every RPG, at least in terms of game mechanics. It’s certainly not the hard but virtuous path. Only recently has it even been a viable option to play a bad guy (again, in terms of game mechanics – if you really get into it I guess you could swear off the looting and such, but that’s external meaning you’re putting on it, not the game’s actual design). Prior to about KOTOR, my experience was that playing a bad guy closed off entire portions of the game and had no balancing factor to make that any sort of recommendable plan. Since then, it’s mostly boiled down to a binary choice with little overall impact.