So, the party’s evil…

by mshrm

One of the players and I were discussing the last session, and he observed that, now, he realized the party was evil. “With a capital E”, as he put it.

There’s been a lot written over the years about the morality of the dungeon crawl, and I don’t intend to hash it over again, but I will state a position. I don’t subscribe to the “dungeon as mythic underworld” trope — at least, not for this dungeon. My orcs and goblins aren’t magical constructs that appear fully-formed, soulless, and irredeemably evil. They’re people, as much as halflings and dwarves and humans are. It’s not unknown to see a goblin in town at the market. So, no, killing a goblin isn’t as morally neutral as breaking a clock.

On the other hand, I’m not out to “gotcha” the PCs. The goblins and orcs in the dungeon might be people, but they’re not nice people. The PCs aren’t going to have to deal with the old “what do you do with the orc kids?” dilemma, because the tribes that are living in the dungeon aren’t happy little nuclear family units. They’re raiding parties. They aren’t there to settle down, they’re there to bust heads for a season, or a year, and gather some loot. They’re more like biker gangs, or pirate crews, than a family group.

Really, that describes the PCs just as well.   So, right up front, let’s acknowledge that anybody joining a party to go on a dungeon crawl is unlikely to be a saint. There’s a certain amount of “morally grey” that comes with the territory.

What have we seen the party do beyond that?There’s been petty thievery and sharp dealing between PCs. Alric basically enslaved Dobby, but Dobby’s got such a case of hero worship that he volunteered for the position. Lies have been told. They’ve killed prisoners, and been willing to break another PC’s word of honor to do so. There’s been at least one round of that Old School favorite, “Pull The Wool Over The Paladin’s Eyes”.

To their dubious credit, they didn’t go out of their way to harm the goblin women. They just intimidated them, searched their home, and packed up the valuables to steal. (I did say “dubious”, right?)

They don’t go out of their way to chase down fleeing enemies, which makes their execution of prisoners that much more puzzling. In every fight with the goblins, at least a few have managed to run away, carrying their wealth with them, while the only goblin to have survived after fighting and surrendering has been Dobby. Perhaps they hope to cultivate a reputation for fierceness? That’s how they did it in ancient times:  “Surrender immediately and completely, or abandon all hope.”

Though they didn’t get to follow through, when they mugged the illusionist, there was talk of selling him as a slave. It has been established, there is no law against it, and there is a market for such in town. I’ve got this quiet little side conceit, that the Old World is a decadent, byzantine society of politics and intrigue — basically the exact opposite of the New World — and such societies need a slave trade.

Luckily, I’ve been taking the Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser stories and the Dying Earth novels as my model, so I have no particular problem with “evil” characters, in themselves.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty sure anybody caught pulling too much of a fast one will find themselves killed, looted, and dropped over a cliff. I figure there’s a certain level of “Chaotic Selfish” that the party will tolerate, and no more.

Thoughts? Are these guys any worse than the standard party of adventuring murder-hobos?