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Morality Plays
Save My Game
by Stephen Radney-MacFarland

Dungeons & Dragons, like most action-adventure games, lives within a bubble of its own moral axioms. The game assumes that characters are tracking down evil monsters and putting them to the sword, or blasting them with a spell and then taking their stuff. It’s a reality far different from our own.

At the same time, murder and theft are still wrong. A key assumption of the game is that monsters have it coming. That’s why they have evil alignments. You don’t ransack the innkeeper’s quarters, kill the stablehand who mouthed off to you, and scrape the gold leaf off the walls in the local temple of Pelor. Even in a campaign with mostly evil characters, such things aren't daily occurrences.

Eventually, every DM looks for a new way to engage players. Presenting them with tough moral choices is great way to do that.

(315 kb PDF)

About the Author

Stephen Radney-MacFarland is a game designer living large in the Seattle area. He was a developer for D&D 4th Edition, a content developer for 3rd Edition organized play, and he has taught game design for the past three years. Stephen currently works at Paizo Publishing as a designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, writes "Save My Game," and works on the occasional D&D product. He also runs more games than his wife would prefer.

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