One of the major draws to playing RPGs today is the sheer breadth of possibility included in them. Genre-defining entries like Bethesda’s Skyrim are an exemplar for this, with weaving plotlines that change and adapt to the choices you make as a character. The increased availability of MMORPGs means a glut of new environments and worlds in which to role-play to your heart’s content, though not all MMOs have quite the same functionality. Still, there are ways you can introduce your character’s alignment to your game, whatever the game – and here’s how.
Alignment was a system of categorization created by Gary Gygax in the early days of Dungeons and Dragons. The system plots the motivations, morals, and ethics of a character on two axes: lawfulness, and virtue. Each axis has three entries – good, neutral, and evil for virtue, and lawful, neutral, or chaotic for lawfulness – producing nine possible character alignments. While the system is somewhat reductive, it’s an incredibly useful tool for players to inform their character’s in-game decisions.
If you want to create an evil character to play in an MMO, it’s important to understand the distinctions between evil alignments. Chaotic evil characters “just want to watch the world burn”, as a brilliant example of chaotic evil it aptly described by the Joker in The Dark Knight; they have no moral code, no regard for other life and barely any regard for their own. Neutral evil characters tend to be self-serving, with aspirations beyond their own advantage and little care for people who are not of immediate use to them – think GlaDOS from the Portal series. Lawful evil characters often act by code, believing themselves to be justified in their actions and using order as a means of victory. Famous lawful evil characters might include Lord Palpatine from the Star Wars series, or Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas.
Popular MMOs like Elder Scrolls Online create your character in-game, by choosing a race, customizing your avatar, and sometimes even choosing your character’s background. Here, your evil character alignment could inform these choices. A chaotic evil character might care little for their appearance, while a lawful evil character might look their best to display superiority.
An MMORPG like Alliance: Heroes of the Spire might not offer a character creation screen, instead it presents you with over 400 different Hero characters to train and dispatch as you’d like. For games like this, your character creation doesn’t happen in-game. You are the character playing the game. In this position of command, you can effectively role-play your character’s personality through your in-game choices. But how might you do that?
You don’t need to wait for your MMO of choice to offer you distinct in-game choices to enact your character’s alignment. Instead, you can take further cues from the DnD origins of the alignment chart and indulge in the ‘role-playing’ part as a player yourself. In knowing your character’s background and motivations, you can create your own set of rules to abide by, for your character to act according to its alignment. This rule-set can be as simple or complex as you’d like. For example, a neutral evil character wouldn’t use their resources to help someone else, unless doing so would help them personally.
And there you have it! With the simple application of character backgrounds and rule-sets, you can introduce character alignment to your playthroughs of any MMO, enriching the world in which you’re playing and enhancing your gameplay experience all the while.