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TrollumThinks: You think there are no bad-guys in the BG world masquerading as good guys?
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Jonesy89: This is exactly my problem with alignment, in that Good aligned characters are always the Good Guys and that Evil aligned characters are always the Bad Guys,
I think we're just defining things differently - I'm using 'good guy' and 'bad guy' here as 'protagonist' and 'antagonist'
I'm not suggesting there are no moral grey-areas.

Ultimately though, if you want a highly complex plot - try a 14-book,series. If you want a good plot with role-playing possibilities then BG has a fine story and though there are (intentional) humorous elements, the characters aren't 'cartoonish'
@Jonesy89:
I mostly agree with your rant.

Although I happen to disagree with you on what is good and what is evil on almost every example you gave.

Most importantly though, I must strongly disagree with the statement
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Jonesy89: Good things can be done with alignment
Alignment can only be negative, nothing good can EVER come of having an alignment system in a game. (I normally avoid absolutes, but this is one of the few things where there aren't any shades of grey; alignment system = bad)
Post edited July 22, 2013 by taltamir
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taltamir: @Jonesy89:
I mostly agree with your rant.

Although I happen to disagree with you on what is good and what is evil on almost every example you gave.

Most importantly though, I must strongly disagree with the statement
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Jonesy89: Good things can be done with alignment
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taltamir: Alignment can only be negative, nothing good can EVER come of having an alignment system in a game. (I normally avoid absolutes, but this is one of the few things where there aren't any shades of grey; alignment system = bad)
Crap, this is starting to resemble a rant, isn't it. Damn.

As to the examples I gave about good and evil, it's not that I necessarily agree with any of them, but rather that I picked a few philosophers with diametrically opposed viewpoints and used their ideas to show the limiting nature of alignment. Philosophers have been trying to define good and evil, or in some cases determine whether they exist, for thousands of years, but alignment doesn't recognize that, which irritates me to no end.

As for "good things" being doable with alignment, I think I should clarify. The only way I can see alignment ever being a good thing is if it is being used to illustrate just how flawed and wrong the very concept of alignment is in the first place, a la Planescape Torment and the other example I gave in that post (granted, that was the only time the issue was addressed in that campaign, with the rest of it being devoted to what I can only describe in retrospect as batshit insanity due to much of the it being come up with on the fly). Any other attempt to use alignment in a game outside trying to damn games that use it in a sincere attempt to assign objective morality would be foolish, like a sequel to Spec Ops where the ultimate message is that the PC can do no wrong in the game and that there is nothing wrong about turning realistic military conflict into some deranged power fantasy. I too ordinarily tend to leave absolutes to the Sith, but here I think we are in agreement.
Post edited July 22, 2013 by Jonesy89
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TrollumThinks: Ultimately though, if you want a highly complex plot - try a 14-book,series. If you want a good plot with role-playing possibilities then BG has a fine story and though there are (intentional) humorous elements, the characters aren't 'cartoonish'
I find it odd that you think the only way one can find complexity is in a long and drawn out book series when there are clear examples of great stories with complex characters being conveyed in a single reasonably sized novel (A Clockwork Orange, American Gods, Ender's Game, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen all spring to mind). Furthermore, it's not that I don't get the appeal of genre stories that are just there for fun and not trying to say anything, but they need to deal with characters who I like who have the merest scintilla of depth and some kind of arc.

To give the example most diametrically opposed to the "high art" I have been focusing my attention on, I love the hell out of Die Hard; not only do I love it, but it sits at the top of my favorite Holiday films. It's a well shot film that looks amazing, captures the claustrophobia and desperation of being trapped in a building by hostile forces, and features great performances by the cast all around. The story is hardly high art, but the writer managed to give John McClane memorable character traits from his ruthlessness, ingenuity, and willingness to try to work with authority until it becomes too bogged down in bureaucracy to be of any use, a coherent character arc about surviving the events in the Nakatomi building and reconnecting with his estranged wife (even though there are uncomfortable hints that John is controlling if not abusive), all the while conveying vulnerability as he slowly became worn down by everything going on around him, not to mention at least one moment where we ever so briefly think that John might just be as dangerous as the people he is up against ("Now I have a Machine-Gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."). Hans Gruber is a clear antagonist who is in it for the money, but even he has more to his character than that, as we are shown that while he is willing to kill to get what he wants, he looks appalled at John's sadistic ploy with the guy in the elevator. The law enforcement are all characterized as wanting to do the right thing, but some of them seem more than a little dubious, especially the FBI rescue squad who show callous disregard for the lives of the people they are about to try to save, saying that they can live with a quarter of the hostages dying in the attempt. Not much in the way of depth in terms of either character or story, but it's there, despite Die Hard firmly being a genre film. Had the characters been as simple as my companions or if they had been wearing badges telling me their alignment, that depth would vanish in an instant and I would probably not even remember the film.

I am currently above the level where death could come in a single hit from a wolf, and the characters almost never speak to each other except to exchange random quips that have nothing to do with the situation, and what little of it isn't based on whether my alignment is compatible with theirs establishes maybe one character trait (two if I count Dynaheir's grating misuse of the word "thine") which is usually played over the top to the point I could make a case of self defense for killing them beyond any resurrection spell if it weren't for their growing ability to help keep me alive in combat. Maybe the story does get better later on, but unless the characters undergo some kind of drastic change some time before the game ends, I think that there is more than enough support for my conclusion that they are caricatures.
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Jonesy89: As for "good things" being doable with alignment, I think I should clarify. The only way I can see alignment ever being a good thing is if it is being used to illustrate just how flawed and wrong the very concept of alignment is in the first place, a la Planescape Torment
Ah, I see. That makes sense although I am not sure if it should count as doing something positive with alignment when all you are doing is pointing out how bad it is. :)

Also, I did say alignment _mechanic_ (referring to games which keep a meter of the player's alignment), which requires that the game actually keep an "alignment score" for the player rather than merely discussing morality in some dialog here and there. The problem with such a parodying is that unless you quickly disable the mechanic after a short (say, 10 minutes?) skit, you end up with an overly drawn out message that hampers enjoyment for the 50+ hours of gameplay in your RPG; and it is far too easy to mistake the parody for playing it straight unless you are being ridiculously overt about it to the point of it being groan worthy rather than amusing.

Generally speaking, I don't think I have ever seen a parody implementation of bad mechanics that wasn't equally bad as playing it straight. With the added "bonus" of alienating both those who hate the mechanic AND those who like it.
Post edited July 22, 2013 by taltamir
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TrollumThinks: Ultimately though, if you want a highly complex plot - try a 14-book,series. If you want a good plot with role-playing possibilities then BG has a fine story and though there are (intentional) humorous elements, the characters aren't 'cartoonish'
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Jonesy89: I find it odd that you think the only way one can find complexity is in a long and drawn out book series when there are clear examples of great stories with complex characters being conveyed in a single reasonably sized novel (A Clockwork Orange, American Gods, Ender's Game, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen all spring to mind). Furthermore, it's not that I don't get the appeal of genre stories that are just there for fun and not trying to say anything, but they need to deal with characters who I like who have the merest scintilla of depth and some kind of arc.

To give the example most diametrically opposed to the "high art" I have been focusing my attention on, I love the hell out of Die Hard; not only do I love it, but it sits at the top of my favorite Holiday films. It's a well shot film that looks amazing, captures the claustrophobia and desperation of being trapped in a building by hostile forces, and features great performances by the cast all around. The story is hardly high art, but the writer managed to give John McClane memorable character traits from his ruthlessness, ingenuity, and willingness to try to work with authority until it becomes too bogged down in bureaucracy to be of any use, a coherent character arc about surviving the events in the Nakatomi building and reconnecting with his estranged wife (even though there are uncomfortable hints that John is controlling if not abusive), all the while conveying vulnerability as he slowly became worn down by everything going on around him, not to mention at least one moment where we ever so briefly think that John might just be as dangerous as the people he is up against ("Now I have a Machine-Gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."). Hans Gruber is a clear antagonist who is in it for the money, but even he has more to his character than that, as we are shown that while he is willing to kill to get what he wants, he looks appalled at John's sadistic ploy with the guy in the elevator. The law enforcement are all characterized as wanting to do the right thing, but some of them seem more than a little dubious, especially the FBI rescue squad who show callous disregard for the lives of the people they are about to try to save, saying that they can live with a quarter of the hostages dying in the attempt. Not much in the way of depth in terms of either character or story, but it's there, despite Die Hard firmly being a genre film. Had the characters been as simple as my companions or if they had been wearing badges telling me their alignment, that depth would vanish in an instant and I would probably not even remember the film.

I am currently above the level where death could come in a single hit from a wolf, and the characters almost never speak to each other except to exchange random quips that have nothing to do with the situation, and what little of it isn't based on whether my alignment is compatible with theirs establishes maybe one character trait (two if I count Dynaheir's grating misuse of the word "thine") which is usually played over the top to the point I could make a case of self defense for killing them beyond any resurrection spell if it weren't for their growing ability to help keep me alive in combat. Maybe the story does get better later on, but unless the characters undergo some kind of drastic change some time before the game ends, I think that there is more than enough support for my conclusion that they are caricatures.
Honestly just go back to Antarctica you old fool. Your revolution is here.
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Jonesy89: As for "good things" being doable with alignment, I think I should clarify. The only way I can see alignment ever being a good thing is if it is being used to illustrate just how flawed and wrong the very concept of alignment is in the first place, a la Planescape Torment
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taltamir: Ah, I see. That makes sense although I am not sure if it should count as doing something positive with alignment when all you are doing is pointing out how bad it is. :)

Also, I did say alignment _mechanic_ (referring to games which keep a meter of the player's alignment), which requires that the game actually keep an "alignment score" for the player rather than merely discussing morality in some dialog here and there. The problem with such a parodying is that unless you quickly disable the mechanic after a short (say, 10 minutes?) skit, you end up with an overly drawn out message that hampers enjoyment for the 50+ hours of gameplay in your RPG; and it is far too easy to mistake the parody for playing it straight unless you are being ridiculously overt about it to the point of it being groan worthy rather than amusing.

Generally speaking, I don't think I have ever seen a parody implementation of bad mechanics that wasn't equally bad as playing it straight. With the added "bonus" of alienating both those who hate the mechanic AND those who like it.
Your another fool. If you can't agree that Baldurs Gate rocks the house with pizza hut than-".....Is an option." Hahha
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Hickory: I beg to differ. From where I'm sitting, you come across as only willing to accept points of view that mesh with your own. You don't appear to want understanding, you appear to want verification of your own views. You continue to proffer your own prejudices, while ignoring (read dismissing) anything that other people say. You will not concede that taste comes into it at all. Since flogging a dead horse is pointless, there is nothing more to be said.
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Jonesy89: The problem is that all people have said is that they like thing X within the game without elaborating, despite there being problems with thing X. If someone were to tell me that, for example, the alignment-centric setting doesn't bother them and give a reason, like, say, it portrays some sort of ideal universe or something, then I might begin to understand it; I'd probably disagree with it because a universe where people think they can do no wrong because they are on the Good side tends to lead to people doing some pretty horrible things to each other, as games like Spec Ops illustrate.

That's all I am after: the why of it all. All I want is some concrete reason for this discrepancy. If people can explain to me why each particular thing in BG appeals to them so much and why each flaw doesn't bug them so much beyond shrugging and marking it off to taste, I will be cry tears of joy at seeing someone on the internet make a rational argument to this effect, even if I disagree with the underlying logic.
Its about 2 inches hard.
Post edited July 22, 2013 by valdaintheking
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valdaintheking: Your another fool. If you can't agree that Baldurs Gate rocks the house with pizza hut than-".....Is an option." Hahha
You're, not your.
http://www.wikihow.com/Use-You're-and-Your

Signed, your friendly local Grammar Paladin.
Post edited July 22, 2013 by taltamir
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valdaintheking: Your another fool. If you can't agree that Baldurs Gate rocks the house with pizza hut than-".....Is an option." Hahha
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taltamir: You're, not your.
http://www.wikihow.com/Use-You're-and-Your

Signed, your friendly local Grammar Paladin.
Just be thankful it wasn`t ``ur``.... ;)
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Jonesy89: I find it odd that you think the only way one can find complexity is in a long and drawn out book series
And I find it interesting that you use the negative term 'drawn out' as though you can't imagine something being long without needlessly padding it out.

I didn't say it needed to be longer (and ok, 14-book series was a little tongue-in-cheek, I've only read one of those, though it was good) to make for complex characters. I said 'plot', which isn't made complex by making it longer but has more scope for it in a longer work.
Complex characters are good - but unless you want an explanation of their motivations on page 1, you're going to view them initially as one thing or another. Given time to develop, characters become interesting. That's why I like the close third-person perspective style of story-telling rather than the omniscient narrator's POV - I don't want to be told everything at the beginning like: "He's giving money to help the poor, but really he's using it as cover to make them trust him before he turns them all into zombie slaves" or whatever. (so we might label him as a 'good-guy' until we later learn he isn't).
I get that you prefer moral ambiguity. Personally, I don't mind categorising characters as 'good-guys' and 'bad-guys' even though there may still be grey-areas.

when there are clear examples of great stories with complex characters being conveyed in a single reasonably sized novel (A Clockwork Orange, American Gods, Ender's Game, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen all spring to mind). Furthermore, it's not that I don't get the appeal of genre stories that are just there for fun and not trying to say anything, but they need to deal with characters who I like who have the merest scintilla of depth and some kind of arc.
Yes, (again, I said "plot" not "characters")
This is an RPG - the characters (mostly your own but also your team) are what you make of them. I might order Minsc to carve his way through that crowd of innocents but that would just be silly as it doesn't mesh with how I see his character - they don't need to add a gameplay mechanic to stop me doing it. I play the game by characterizing - maybe that's one reason I enjoy it more than you? (not saying 'my way is better' - just that that's the way I approach the game).
As for them being caricatures - they do have some elements of that, and they're in there for humour. If you don't like that style of humour or you want a game that's ALL serious, then BG isn't for you.

Die Hard
and you don't see any caricaturing in that movie? Not saying it's not a good movie (I enjoyed it a lot) - just saying you're reading into the characters as you could do in BG. But in BG, you're taking them at face-value and not allowing them to develop beyond your first-impressions.

We're seeing all this through the eyes of the PC - a fresh-faced boy/girl going out into the world for the first time. So yes, things seem more B&W at first. And although I won't argue that the ultimate boss is 'evil' and that your character can be 'good' or 'evil' if you make him/her that way, I don't think that spoils the enjoyment of the game. Maybe I enjoy the 'good guys beating the bad guys' thing (or even the 'bad-guys triumphing' thing when I play as 'evil') (there are also subtle variations of 'good' and 'evil' depending on what you see as your character's motivations. For example, saving the damsel in distress so you can bed her or becoming the 'heroes' to get the reward - simple examples, more complexity is possible)

Back on the alignment system: We could characterize your earlier examples into 'good' or 'evil' labels - wouldn't change their character or give them less depth or remove the moral questions. I'd put the protagonist in "A Clockwork Orange', for example, in the 'neutral evil' category. Doesn't mean I'm saying he does it just to be evil or that I think he's beyond redemption or that I don't sympathise to some extent with his later plight.
So although I agree that the alignment system isn't necessary, I don't think it does what you say it does. So maybe I'd put this under one of those things that I enjoy the game 'despite' not 'because of' - it makes no difference to the characters or plot - it's just a mechanic to make 'holy/unholy-smite' work and restrict a couple of weapons like "The Holy Avenger" (Carsormyr - that's in BG2).

If you're not enjoying the game though, there's no point torturing yourself through it.
Other than the story and characters, are you enjoying the combat/exploration/other gameplay aspects?
Post edited July 23, 2013 by TrollumThinks
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Lasivern: Just be thankful it wasn`t ``ur``.... ;)
Heh.

:D
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taltamir: You're, not your.
http://www.wikihow.com/Use-You're-and-Your

Signed, your friendly local Grammar Paladin.
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Lasivern: Just be thankful it wasn`t ``ur``.... ;)
You're right, I should be.
Speaking of UR.... Ur Priests!
Post edited July 23, 2013 by taltamir
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Jonesy89: I find it odd that you think the only way one can find complexity is in a long and drawn out book series
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TrollumThinks: And I find it interesting that you use the negative term 'drawn out' as though you can't imagine something being long without needlessly padding it out.

I didn't say it needed to be longer (and ok, 14-book series was a little tongue-in-cheek, I've only read one of those, though it was good) to make for complex characters. I said 'plot', which isn't made complex by making it longer but has more scope for it in a longer work.
Complex characters are good - but unless you want an explanation of their motivations on page 1, you're going to view them initially as one thing or another. Given time to develop, characters become interesting. That's why I like the close third-person perspective style of story-telling rather than the omniscient narrator's POV - I don't want to be told everything at the beginning like: "He's giving money to help the poor, but really he's using it as cover to make them trust him before he turns them all into zombie slaves" or whatever. (so we might label him as a 'good-guy' until we later learn he isn't).
I get that you prefer moral ambiguity. Personally, I don't mind categorising characters as 'good-guys' and 'bad-guys' even though there may still be grey-areas.

when there are clear examples of great stories with complex characters being conveyed in a single reasonably sized novel (A Clockwork Orange, American Gods, Ender's Game, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen all spring to mind). Furthermore, it's not that I don't get the appeal of genre stories that are just there for fun and not trying to say anything, but they need to deal with characters who I like who have the merest scintilla of depth and some kind of arc.
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TrollumThinks: Yes, (again, I said "plot" not "characters")
This is an RPG - the characters (mostly your own but also your team) are what you make of them. I might order Minsc to carve his way through that crowd of innocents but that would just be silly as it doesn't mesh with how I see his character - they don't need to add a gameplay mechanic to stop me doing it. I play the game by characterizing - maybe that's one reason I enjoy it more than you? (not saying 'my way is better' - just that that's the way I approach the game).
As for them being caricatures - they do have some elements of that, and they're in there for humour. If you don't like that style of humour or you want a game that's ALL serious, then BG isn't for you.

Die Hard
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TrollumThinks: and you don't see any caricaturing in that movie? Not saying it's not a good movie (I enjoyed it a lot) - just saying you're reading into the characters as you could do in BG. But in BG, you're taking them at face-value and not allowing them to develop beyond your first-impressions.

We're seeing all this through the eyes of the PC - a fresh-faced boy/girl going out into the world for the first time. So yes, things seem more B&W at first. And although I won't argue that the ultimate boss is 'evil' and that your character can be 'good' or 'evil' if you make him/her that way, I don't think that spoils the enjoyment of the game. Maybe I enjoy the 'good guys beating the bad guys' thing (or even the 'bad-guys triumphing' thing when I play as 'evil') (there are also subtle variations of 'good' and 'evil' depending on what you see as your character's motivations. For example, saving the damsel in distress so you can bed her or becoming the 'heroes' to get the reward - simple examples, more complexity is possible)

Back on the alignment system: We could characterize your earlier examples into 'good' or 'evil' labels - wouldn't change their character or give them less depth or remove the moral questions. I'd put the protagonist in "A Clockwork Orange', for example, in the 'neutral evil' category. Doesn't mean I'm saying he does it just to be evil or that I think he's beyond redemption or that I don't sympathise to some extent with his later plight.
So although I agree that the alignment system isn't necessary, I don't think it does what you say it does. So maybe I'd put this under one of those things that I enjoy the game 'despite' not 'because of' - it makes no difference to the characters or plot - it's just a mechanic to make 'holy/unholy-smite' work and restrict a couple of weapons like "The Holy Avenger" (Carsormyr - that's in BG2).

If you're not enjoying the game though, there's no point torturing yourself through it.
Other than the story and characters, are you enjoying the combat/exploration/other gameplay aspects?
Had you read my post in its entirety and taken the time to try to understand what I was trying to communicate, you would know that I picked Die Hard specifically because it is a highly simple story with simple characters, but that even there the lack of any definite statement by the universe as to the morality of each character leaves the viewer free to form their own opinion about whether John McClane is really just a different kind of asshole who could have just as easily been the villain or any given aspect of that film. Alignment would have removed even the merest sheen of complexity that was there, and would then proceed to piledrive it into the ground for an encore by making morality measurable by any character in the world, meaning that John McClane and Hans Gruber would both be self aware that they were Good and Evil respectively, which would do to them what it does to the characters in Baldur's Gate: it turns them from merely being simple characters into non-characters.

Same thing with Alex from A Clockwork Orange; the moment the universe declares him Evil, his morality becomes empirically measurable, making every single point of ethical discourse there is to be had about that book rendered completely moot by simply pointing the Alex's Evil alignment.

As to mentioning how alignment "makes no difference to the characters or plot - it's just a mechanic to make 'holy/unholy-smite' work and restrict a couple of weapons", I would like to draw your attention to the last part of that sentence. Having alignment foreclose any semblance of being able to form an opinion on ethics in the game is one thing, but now it is actually interfering with and defining the gameplay; I'd hardly write that off as being as minor as you seem to be making it out to be.

Before anyone rushes to mention that Planescape did the same thing by having alignment specific items, I freely admit that for all the good that game did in eviscerating the concept of alignment the inclusion of such items was annoying as hell, but thankfully it had the decency to keep that nonsense to a minimum to the point (almost to the point where I suspect even those were only included under corporate mandate) where I rarely noticed it, and to the extent any decision to include them was an intentional decision to present the player with one and make them see just how far they would be willing to go to change alignment to use it (thereby making their personal unconscious answer to Ravel's riddle be greed), then I applaud it. This, on the other hand, is far more rampant here and lacks even the potential justification of deconstruction, as it only serves to indulge in everything that is wrong with alignment.

As to the characters developing, given that not a one of them can be talked to directly or chime in during a plot-centric dialouge, and that their banter never at any point changes based on our situation, I utterly fail to see how they have any hope in the Hells of growing as characters outside of a hamfisted final dialogue that suddenly creates and ends a character arc.

I am utterly baffled at how you seem to think I want every potential twist fed to me; I would be perfectly fine with not knowing why X is giving money to the poor, and when the reveal came, I would commend the misdirection (if it had otherwise been done well), but here whenever an evil character theoretically acts charitably, I automatically know better since I know that they are Evil. There is a far cry between asking that the player have stakes in the plot beyond finding out later that the plot really affected them all along; it's lucky for Khalid and Jaheira that I was a Paladin this time and thus was impacted by the Iron shortage, since had I been a spellcaster, I would have taken one look at them and said, "Not until I get some answers about who "E" is, why Gorion sent me to you in particular, and who in the name of the Lady is that crazy guy chasing me (oh, wait, who chased me once and has yet to appear again after 20 hours of gameplay, effectively killing any tension about being hunted while doing unrelated stuff)??! Sorry if I seem a little desperate for answers, but in case you haven't been able to guess yet, Gorion was killed by a pretty sufficiently awesome threat that I need to know as much about right now so that I can better protect myself and this group as a whole, and so help me God if you are holding out on me, then don't act so surprised when I get chopped into mince meat by him because I wasn't sufficiently informed enough to prepare myself for the worst case scenario!", as opposed to going along with the mine clearing and proceeding to track down those responsible as if Gorion dying and the people after me will just go away if we stop paying attention to them.
Post edited July 23, 2013 by Jonesy89
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Jonesy89: Had you read my post in its entirety and taken the time to try to understand what I was trying to communicate,
I did read it all. Sadly, I didn't peruse it with the same care and attention I would have taken to a contract. If you write long posts (as do I) then they'll sometimes get skimmed due to a lack of time on the reader's part - mayhaps I misinterpreted your meaning. I thought we were talking about complex and interesting characters, not just alignment. You may wish to also consider the possibility that I did read and try to understand your meaning but it simply wasn't expressed well enough. Your sentence above came across as rude. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that wasn't your intention.

This is a conversation, there's room for misunderstanding. If I misunderstand something you're trying to say, then just tell me. You didn't respond to all of my points either - that's ok, this is just a conversation.
you would know that I picked Die Hard specifically because it is a highly simple story with simple characters, but that even there the lack of any definite statement by the universe as to the morality of each character leaves the viewer free to form their own opinion
You don't know the alignment of the NPCs in BG. Only the ones that join your party, whose actions are yours to command (with the exception of in-fighting with the odd pairing and the leaving the party if your actions and their desires aren't met) thus making them PCs. So they are also open to interpretation. Is Monty 'evil' just because he's a psycho or does he have a higher calling? I find it strange that you're willing to read motivation into Die Hard but not into BG just because they're labelled as 'evil'/'good'
Who told you Gorion wasn't a bit evil? Who told you that certain people aren't trying to kill you for something other than being evil (this comes across better in BG2 so again, that's a game you might prefer to BG). Who told you that the Flaming Fist mercenary trying to execute a certain person (BG1) is doing his lawful duty?
I get that you don't like the labels, I just disagree that they remove moral questions and motivations. The alignment doesn't make the character, the character makes the alignment.

It may (or may not) interest you to know that some of the creature-files ('creature', here, includes people) weren't given an alignment or were given one in contrast to their in-game actions (this is the subject of a Tweak Mod for those who care about or like such things). To see these, you need to go into an editor - from a gamer's perspective, we just don't know their alignment.
As to mentioning how alignment "makes no difference to the characters or plot - it's just a mechanic to make 'holy/unholy-smite' work and restrict a couple of weapons", I would like to draw your attention to the last part of that sentence. Having alignment foreclose any semblance of being able to form an opinion on ethics in the game is one thing, but now it is actually interfering with and defining the gameplay; I'd hardly write that off as being as minor as you seem to be making it out to be.
That's because you don't like the concept - I rather do. It works as a gameplay mechanic by making certain items usable or not based on your playthrough - thus, there isn't one 'best weapon' in the game for everyone and your class and alignment affect this. If I play through with a Lawful-Good Paladin, I can use that cool dispelling sword, if I play through as a mage, I can use the Staff of Magi. (Class has more to do with item restrictions than alignment - the 'Carsormyr' I mentioned can only be wielded by a Paladin, which makes it Lawful Good by default).
If you want an 'in-world' explanation for 'why' this is - I think (though I'm not sure if this is 'canon') that it comes down to the deities involved. A certain deity, interested in justice, blessed the sword so that it could only be used by one whose heart yearned to use it for justice. Now, it may be that the slaughtering of a whole village was required in the interests of justice (though I can't think of a good example) but if the deity involved disagreed with you then you'd 'fall' as a Paladin and be unable to wield the blade.
Equally, an 'evil' only weapon may have a blood-lust and not allow itself to be wielded by anyone who might 'retire' the blade or decide to use it sparingly (though you'd think any adventurer would be up to his/her eyes in blood anyway so maybe the reasoning is more complex - it wants someone with a similar world-view). (And if you think I'm nuts, talking about what a weapon 'wants' - see BG2's sword Lilacor).
Now, I'm reading more into this than I have before - and it may not be something you like - but your question was 'how can anyone enjoy this?' and my answer is that I don't mind the setting's rules as long as they're consistent. Doesn't mean I'll like every setting, but I do like the Forgotten Realms.
Before anyone rushes to mention that Planescape did the same thing by having alignment specific items
which you enjoyed despite it's 'flaws' in your view.

Don't worry - BG has very few alignment specific items. BG2 also has very few. You can leave them in the dust and not miss out.
As to the characters developing, given that not a one of them can be talked to directly or chime in during a plot-centric dialouge, and that their banter never at any point changes based on our situation, I utterly fail to see how they have any hope in the Hells of growing as characters outside of a hamfisted final dialogue that suddenly creates and ends a character arc.
BG2 has more and there's the BG1 NPC project if you need more of that sort of thing. I didn't use it for my first playthrough but have since then. If you don't enjoy the rest of the gameplay at all though, it's not going to make it for you.
I am utterly baffled at how you seem to think I want every potential twist fed to me
that was in response to "they find Aragorn, he takes them on a journey to clean out a mine that was rumored to be haunted. Unless the story made clear that Aragorn knew that the mines were somehow tied to the Nazgul and Sauron, it would just feel random and there would be an almost audible thud as the driving plot was dropped until it turned out that the mine was being used to ferry orcs to Mordor underground."
I didn't actually think you wanted every twist spelled out - but you're judging characters/plot based on first impressions when they may or may not turn out differently. Again, your example of the man giving to the poor might seem the worst kind of one-dimensional do-gooder until we learn later of his duplicity.

I've not much time left so I'll just add one more little thing:
Icewind Dale had good combat but the story was barely functional (and the quests became "I'm sorry, Mario, the princess is in the other dungeon"), Planescape: Torment is said to have good story (but I didn't get beyond the first level as I found it a bit stupid - I was supposed to be escaping the mortuary and avoiding notice but I was stopping to have a 10-minute conversation with everyone I met - didn't seem all that plausible to me. Then again, that was before I played BG through so I was also getting to grips with the gameplay mechanics and would've preferred a simpler starter-dungeon with a bit of story. Maybe I'll give it another try). BG has a good balance of story, combat and exploration - maybe that's why it's more popular. Not for everyone but good for many.
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Jonesy89: Had you read my post in its entirety and taken the time to try to understand what I was trying to communicate,
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TrollumThinks: I did read it all. Sadly, I didn't peruse it with the same care and attention I would have taken to a contract. If you write long posts (as do I) then they'll sometimes get skimmed due to a lack of time on the reader's part - mayhaps I misinterpreted your meaning. I thought we were talking about complex and interesting characters, not just alignment. You may wish to also consider the possibility that I did read and try to understand your meaning but it simply wasn't expressed well enough. Your sentence above came across as rude. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that wasn't your intention.

This is a conversation, there's room for misunderstanding. If I misunderstand something you're trying to say, then just tell me. You didn't respond to all of my points either - that's ok, this is just a conversation.
My intention was certainly not to be rude, but in between BG sapping my patience with every second I have tried to play it up until reaching chapter 3 and trying to find time to both post and give the game a chance on the basis of it supposedly getting way better later on despite it doing anything but helping the day become less stressful, I can certainly understand it coming across that way.




you would know that I picked Die Hard specifically because it is a highly simple story with simple characters, but that even there the lack of any definite statement by the universe as to the morality of each character leaves the viewer free to form their own opinion
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TrollumThinks: You don't know the alignment of the NPCs in BG.
Here's a fun bit of D&D trivia for you I picked up in the brief time in which I have played PnP D&D: all villagers are neutral aligned. In between that and my Paladin's ability to detect evil and Dynaheir's ability to cast Detect Alignment, I can indeed determine the alignment of virtually every single NPC in that universe.

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TrollumThinks: Only the ones that join your party, whose actions are yours to command (with the exception of in-fighting with the odd pairing and the leaving the party if your actions and their desires aren't met) thus making them PCs. So they are also open to interpretation. Is Monty 'evil' just because he's a psycho or does he have a higher calling? I find it strange that you're willing to read motivation into Die Hard but not into BG just because they're labelled as 'evil'/'good'
Motivation is not the issue, but whether that motivation makes the character morally praiseworthy or morally blameworthy (i.e., Good or Evil). Where the Universe has answered that question by assigning alignment to the characters, the discussion cannot be had with any meaningful outcome, as all that is needed to settle the issue is one of the methods I have outlined in the above paragraph. As to Montaron, it does not matter; any higher calling he might have has ultimately decided by the universe to be an Evil motivation, so whatever his motive is, it is never in doubt that he is a Bad Guy.



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TrollumThinks: Who told you Gorion wasn't a bit evil? Who told you that certain people aren't trying to kill you for something other than being evil (this comes across better in BG2 so again, that's a game you might prefer to BG). Who told you that the Flaming Fist mercenary trying to execute a certain person (BG1) is doing his lawful duty?
I'll give you Gorion, as he is pushing up daisies (although after making my way through what I now understand to be roughly half of the game without any sight of a clue about anything relating to my character's story, I am tempted to resurrect him in order to start beating a few questions out of him) and thus cannot be subjected to anything other than the Paladin's Detect Evil (which he passed with flying colors on a test I just conducted, which tells me without any room for doubt that Gorion did nothing Evil of significance in his life). As for the guy with the glowing eyes who sadistically killed someone in the intro while he constantly giggled as if someone were tickling him while giving him a blowjob as the victim was begging for their life, my money is on him being Evil (something that I have confirmed by checking a wiki because I had lost all hope of ever seeing the main plot again, and doubtlessly I would be able to confirm it in game as well). See the above paragraph on measures to detect alignment for the Flaming Fist, not to mention the fact that their actions are the very textbook definition of Lawful.



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TrollumThinks: I get that you don't like the labels, I just disagree that they remove moral questions and motivations. The alignment doesn't make the character, the character makes the alignment.
Before you brush off everything I have said about alignment as me "just not liking labels", I would like to quote from a scene in The Others: "how do you know who the goodies and the baddies are?" In real life, and in most fiction, we don't, and can only begin to do so by debate on what system their actions must be measured (utilitarianism, egoism, deontology, etc.) and how their actions are interpreted in light of whatever system we believe to be correct. The moment that the universe as a whole dictates that I am Lawful Good or whatever, all of those questions are left out in the cold, as it is known that morality is not measured by any of the philosophical systems for evaluating ethics that we use, but by consulting what the universe has ineffably decided constitutes Good and Evil. I fail to understand how this does not result in moral questions being foreclosed.

As to a character making the alignment, this is not entirely true, as some creatures are labeled in core books as being Evil, resulting in even Orc infants registering as Chaotic Evil. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that this is not the case for all creatures, we must not forget that alignment is something that the characters know exist and that they each know their alignment, or at the very least can have someone determine it for them; any Lawful Good character will be made to understand that they are expected by the universe to act a particular way or that they will suffer the consequences int the form of a loss of powers for Paladins upon committing an Evil act and level loss for everyone in the event of alignment shifting (no, really). Ergo, alignment does in fact make the character to a significant degree.

In short, it's not that I "just" don't like labels being imposed by the universe, it is because of the effects they have, which are outlined above.




As to mentioning how alignment "makes no difference to the characters or plot - it's just a mechanic to make 'holy/unholy-smite' work and restrict a couple of weapons", I would like to draw your attention to the last part of that sentence. Having alignment foreclose any semblance of being able to form an opinion on ethics in the game is one thing, but now it is actually interfering with and defining the gameplay; I'd hardly write that off as being as minor as you seem to be making it out to be.
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TrollumThinks: That's because you don't like the concept - I rather do. It works as a gameplay mechanic by making certain items usable or not based on your playthrough - thus, there isn't one 'best weapon' in the game for everyone and your class and alignment affect this. If I play through with a Lawful-Good Paladin, I can use that cool dispelling sword, if I play through as a mage, I can use the Staff of Magi. (Class has more to do with item restrictions than alignment - the 'Carsormyr' I mentioned can only be wielded by a Paladin, which makes it Lawful Good by default).
If you want an 'in-world' explanation for 'why' this is - I think (though I'm not sure if this is 'canon') that it comes down to the deities involved. A certain deity, interested in justice, blessed the sword so that it could only be used by one whose heart yearned to use it for justice. Now, it may be that the slaughtering of a whole village was required in the interests of justice (though I can't think of a good example) but if the deity involved disagreed with you then you'd 'fall' as a Paladin and be unable to wield the blade.
Equally, an 'evil' only weapon may have a blood-lust and not allow itself to be wielded by anyone who might 'retire' the blade or decide to use it sparingly (though you'd think any adventurer would be up to his/her eyes in blood anyway so maybe the reasoning is more complex - it wants someone with a similar world-view). (And if you think I'm nuts, talking about what a weapon 'wants' - see BG2's sword Lilacor).
Now, I'm reading more into this than I have before - and it may not be something you like - but your question was 'how can anyone enjoy this?' and my answer is that I don't mind the setting's rules as long as they're consistent. Doesn't mean I'll like every setting, but I do like the Forgotten Realms.
Post edited July 28, 2013 by Jonesy89
Let us adopt the position that it is due to the will of some deity as you have suggested for the sake of argument. It still is made manifest through the cancer that is alignment, and bringing that into the game brings all the baggage associated with it.
If the deity did in fact bless it, it would be potentially acceptable for it to forbid certain actions as opposed to requiring that a person maintain a particular worldview, thereby potentially allowing for, say, an evil character to be put into an interesting position by being caught between a lust for power and whatever condition is required to wield a powerful weapon in order to acquire that power. As it stands, no such thing is possible while alignment governs the proceedings.

Furthermore, why do you like the Forgotten Realms setting?


Before anyone rushes to mention that Planescape did the same thing by having alignment specific items
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TrollumThinks: which you enjoyed despite it's 'flaws' in your view.

Don't worry - BG has very few alignment specific items. BG2 also has very few. You can leave them in the dust and not miss out.
I will be gracious and ignore how you brushed off the fact that I did not merely like the game in spite of those flaws, but that I outlined my reasons for doing so in detail (that thing that I was apparently an idiot for requesting in the first place) only for someone to boil my post down to being dangerously close to the same "I like it despite flaw X for no real reason" response that will always be a pet peeve of mine.

I see that you mentioned that I didn't mind because of there being so few of these items. Again, my post had far more to say than that, stating that the other part of why these items did not bother me was because they seemed to actively be conspiring with the rest of the game to show the flaws in having an alignment system in the first place by causing players to act a certain way (ex: Lawful Good) in order to get a reward (the Tears) despite the fact that said action goes directly opposite the required alignment (doing good deeds not because the gamer cares about anyone else in character, but because they selfishly are trying to amass power). Rest assured, if PST had not been taking the piss (or at the very least did not appear to be taking the piss), I would have been harder pressed to like that game despite all the other good it does by putting alignment into a metaphorical cage to be shown off as the monster that it is; hell, if the game were to run that contrary to its own message, I might have been enraged by the hypocrisy of it all and given up on it.


As to the characters developing, given that not a one of them can be talked to directly or chime in during a plot-centric dialouge, and that their banter never at any point changes based on our situation, I utterly fail to see how they have any hope in the Hells of growing as characters outside of a hamfisted final dialogue that suddenly creates and ends a character arc.
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TrollumThinks: BG2 has more and there's the BG1 NPC project if you need more of that sort of thing. I didn't use it for my first playthrough but have since then. If you don't enjoy the rest of the gameplay at all though, it's not going to make it for you.
Wait, so in order for character growth to exist (something that *you* brought up as a plus in this game's favor, I might add), I have to install a mod? Thanks, but I would like to think that the blatant contradictions you have put forth speak for themselves.


I am utterly baffled at how you seem to think I want every potential twist fed to me
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TrollumThinks: that was in response to "they find Aragorn, he takes them on a journey to clean out a mine that was rumored to be haunted. Unless the story made clear that Aragorn knew that the mines were somehow tied to the Nazgul and Sauron, it would just feel random and there would be an almost audible thud as the driving plot was dropped until it turned out that the mine was being used to ferry orcs to Mordor underground."
I didn't actually think you wanted every twist spelled out - but you're judging characters/plot based on first impressions when they may or may not turn out differently. Again, your example of the man giving to the poor might seem the worst kind of one-dimensional do-gooder until we learn later of his duplicity.
By asking for the story to make clear that Aragorn is somehow in the know, all I ask is that the main characters have some suspicion that Aragorn knows more than he is letting on, or for the period of omission to not last half the length of the work before revealing this to be the case, because otherwise it begs the question as to why the hobbits do not at any point tie Aragorn down in his sleep and beat him with sticks (again, stressed the hell out from the scary things hunting them) to get some answers about whether he ever plans on helping them with the problem that they were initially sent to him for. After finding out that I have made it roughly halfway through the game, I have long passed the point where I would continue reading that book due to the main plot being abandoned and the characters doing something that they would have absolutely zero reason to do by that point (i.e. follow Strider despite him never helping them with the Ring or the Nazgul despite Gandalf having sent the hobbits to him for that very reason).

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TrollumThinks: I've not much time left so I'll just add one more little thing:
Icewind Dale had good combat but the story was barely functional (and the quests became "I'm sorry, Mario, the princess is in the other dungeon")
Given that the real time fighting engine used in all of these games often results in everything turning into a giant clusterfuck as my fighter attempts to catch up with something chasing my mage and always failing to do so because he has to stop for five seconds to go into a fighting stances (something that would never happen in a turn based setting) and my wizard being unable to accurately target their spellcasting for fear of casting it too close to the party or too far away from the target as to have any effect on combat (again, something that would not happen in a turn based game with clear indications of distance), I honestly do not see what people seem to like in the combat in any of these games (yes, even PST, despite its attempts to remove some of the more headdesk worthy aspects of it). For all that is wrong with Fallout (and having played it again, there is a lot wrong with it), I cannot for the life of me understand why this style of combat was so popular when Fallout had already demonstrated how to design RPG combat via a astly superior turn based system that gave clear indications of range when dealing with ranged attacks and keeping the proceedings from devolving into a confusing mess as a result of trying to simultaneously keep track of everything going on at the same time by instead showing each character taking their turn and giving ample opportunity for the player to respond. BG doesn't exactly help this with the baffling decision to unpause the game if you open the inventory, meaning that the only way any of my potions of elemental resistance will ever get used is metagaming by way of save scumming.

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TrollumThinks: Planescape: Torment is said to have good story (but I didn't get beyond the first level as I found it a bit stupid - I was supposed to be escaping the mortuary and avoiding notice but I was stopping to have a 10-minute conversation with everyone I met - didn't seem all that plausible to me.
Who were you talking to in the Mortuary, aside from Dhall (who is established to be not hostile toward you due to his belief that imposing the Dustmen belief that immortals are abominations that must be destroyed is unethical) and Deinorra (who is located in the vistor's area where no Dustmen would have reason to suspect you of anything and any in that area would not recognize you)?

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TrollumThinks: BG has a good balance of story, combat and exploration - maybe that's why it's more popular. Not for everyone but good for many.
Given that the story has all the pacing and timing of a sloth when it comes to both picking up the main thread over halfway through the game and giving the player constant personal stakes, the combat has a tendency to become about as coherent as a William S. Burroughs novel (as I have mentioned in this post), and that most of the "exploration" consists solely of wandering aimlessly in the woods waiting to come across an encounter as opposed to learning of that encounter's existence and general location in game and actively pursuing a particular goal, I completely fail to see what anyone likes about BG, let alone why it is more popular than other games. I have attempted to answer that question by conducting research, but I have yet to come even remotely close to comprehending the reason why, aside from attributing it to either nostalgia or that every point of criticism I bring up about the game being something that people seem to love about it, which again begs the question: why?
Post edited July 28, 2013 by Jonesy89