Have you ever noticed how Good-Evil/Light-Dark morality systems tend to instead be of the "pet the kitten" - "kill a hundred unarmed civilians" type?
So there I was in Tamriel and I was a thief in the thieves guild who was also in the murderers society but was only in that society out of convenience, due to the opportunity to rob more houses, including the local safehouse. I was so evil I was too evil to play by the rules of evil! Eventually I killed them all, though in subversion of the usual theme, I'd already taken their stuff.
I'd rob houses at night. Or at day. I robbed houses. If people caught me, which they never did, I killed them. They never caught me because I killed them first. Screams alert guards, whereas death gurgles don't.
I was evil.
Until one day I decided to pet the kitten. Readers take note, terrified of touching cats due to their extreme speed and unpredictability. So when I start petting cats, it means I am putting in some major effort to be kind. Though kittens are a lot slower and often don't yet have claws, so maybe it's not quite so great. Now why would I go and pet the kitten? I'm evil!
Well sure, but I'm also practical and let's face the facts, murdering everyone in sight leaves you with no one able to repair your armor. So I stopped murdering.
And now we get to the morality system: I can't be evil in most stories. Instead I can be chaotic, usually with extremely self-destructive consequences, even if there are short-term minor benefits. With the easily exploited alchemy system or just dungeon farming, I didn't need to rob houses for the gold. Evil isn't bad, it's just plain stupid.
We could get around this problem with long-term evil. Let's say I play along so I can be there to murder the emperor at the last minute. Okay so let's go ahead and do that. I can't? You mean the story inevitably drives me toward good? So infamy tracking has no purpose except to make the guards act like asses?
Oblivion (the game I've been talking about, beside KOTOR) is a fairly open-ended world. It's a bit sandy, but ultimately, you are what the story tells you to be. You could avoid completing the story, in which case you'd be a loser who can't get anything done, which doesn't really tell an evil story either, unless you really, really hate bums.
KOTOR (I know it's not all capitalized but it's a lot easier to type, a gain entirely offset by this explanation) at least allows me to go in an evil direction. But it's not MY evil direction. I will acknowledge that in the first one if I was going to be evil then taking over the Sith and the Star Forge would be a good way to go about it. But what if I just liked chaos? Or maybe I liked peace and quite and would go to extreme ends to get it? In that case, I might instead destroy everyone in hopes of causing a (which didn't happen) World War I effect of War to End All Wars which would so deplete the galaxy of military power that war wouldn't be happening again anytime soon.
Good and evil almost seem meaningless when the game itself doesn't offer choice.
Now to ask the question that the title answers: Do you play evil characters in RPGs?
Tomorrow: I contradict myself, because that's what I do.
The gamification of board games
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