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What Is Evil?
I’ve been enjoying the discussion about undead from a couple posts back, and wanted to add a few more thoughts real quick.
First, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that ‘evil’ is defined as having negative emotions, such as sadness or discontentedness.
I don’t want to present it like that. Negative emotions are NOT evil. I don’t want to have a “Light Side/Dark Side of the Force” kinda thing going on.
Undead are evil because they feed off of negative emotions. They don’t need air or food, they need hate (or envy or whatever). They can generate it themselves (and that’s what smalltime monsters like skeletons use, mostly), or they can cause genocides to create huge waves of negative emotion and become incredibly powerful. It gives liches more of a reason to go murder every third villager: it directly empowers them.
I think it makes undead make a little more sense. I admit it’s still ham-fisted as a character motivator, but I never promised War and Peace here! :) I just want storylines to be tolerably interesting.
And this won’t be the only reason they do things. It’s just something that makes it a lot harder for you to think “oh, that lich is just misunderstood, we shouldn’t kill him.” Hopefully.
Brett also said:
What if you have a mental illness, such as depression, and you play this game to find out that the message contained within is that not only are such people sick in this world, they are innately wrong in an eternal, soul-corrupted way?
Yeah, I may have gone a bit astray in imagining that suicides always create ghosts. Further thinking about it, maybe that is just a very rare occurrence, but some people are incredibly superstitious about it anyway. Those people may be unnecessarily cruel to depressed people. That creates some story tension, because it won’t be trivially obvious which party is in the right all the time.
On the other hand, I don’t really want to go all the way down the rabbit hole here. I don’t want NPCs saying “don’t think bad thoughts, that brings on the banshees!” because that will get trite and boring. So I want to pick a few negative emotions and play with them. But I’ll try to make sure I present the negative emotions as a natural thing, not evil itself.
(I picked depression because it’s something I have a pretty good understanding of and think I can treat with sufficient sensitivity. As opposed to, say, schizophrenia, which I would more likely treat farcically because I don’t have first- or second-hand experience with it. Lots of stuff in this game is farcical — psychotherapy is practically a kind of magic — but it’s a good point that some things need to be treated with a bit more sensitivity.)
What if the only way to save a culture from being wiped out by a virulent plague is to ask a necromancer to restore the life of a researcher who died days away from finding the cure and took all his knowledge to the grave? Is that ‘inherently evil’ just because the doctor-zombie now needs constant psychiatric care from the necromancer (of all people) to keep his anger under control? Is this a subversive attack on psychology itself?
This is a wonderful scenario and I’m totally stealing it. Thanks!
Have you had any thoughts to implementing liches?
I think those will be pretty common NPC boss baddies in the game. Any wizard who wants to stave off death will ultimately be tempted to become a lich. They’re “lawful evil” in D&D terms. They’re smart, and some can be bargained with and even manipulated, but their greed and arrogance will make them untrustworthy allies at best.
In terms of player-liches, I haven’t got it all sorted out yet. I want players to be able to walk down the road to lichdom as they develop their necromantic powers. For instance, a high level necromancer may die and suddenly spring back to life as a lich — without their explicitly deciding to do so. That may lock their powers and alter their behaviors somehow (maybe an “evil words filter”? Nah, way too heavy-handed…) until they regain control of their humanity. But I don’t think they’ll ever be “true” liches, stuck as evil monsters for all eternity. At least not when the game ships…
Right now the game is supposed to have three “big choice” areas when it ships, and more will get added later. The initial ones are “becoming a werewolf”, “becoming a druid”, and “selling your soul to a demon”. A fourth one could be “becoming a lich”, but it feels thematically too much like selling your soul to a demon. So I need to think more about how those experiences differ and why each is fun.
Undead going rogue?
If I had to go to great lengths to make a robot, I’d want to make damn sure it would do what I needed it to. Would an undead need some sort of mind control or coercion to keep it tame?
A necromancer’s undead have free will, but they can’t explicitly betray their masters, ever. Eventually some undead may be able to wrest control back and flee their masters, but they can never turn around and kill them. Instead they run and hide from their former master so they don’t get re-assimilated.
I know it’s always poetic justice to see the necromancer destroyed by his own creation, but ehhhh… let’s skip that one. As several people pointed out, if necromancy has too many down sides, why the heck would anybody practice it?
Let’s switch to game-mechanics talk for a minute. Necromancy is a “pet skill,” meaning that most of its combat power comes from minions that follow your commands. There will be two other pet skills at launch: Animal Handlers and Weather Witches. These each have different amounts of out-of-combat prep work needed, and also have different amounts of combat versatility.
Animal Handlers spend a ton of time with their pets, raising and training them. Ancillary skills like Animal Husbandry let them breed pets to get the best genes for fighting (and best colors and appearances!). Animal Handlers have a lot of versatility because they can summon different pets for different problems, but they have to spend a lot of time out of combat raising these pets. (Hopefully this is a fun activity for them, though! It’s aimed at people who think raising and breeding virtual animals sounds fun.)
Necromancy is somewhere in the middle: you have to do a bit of legwork to create undead pets. These pets are primarily damage dealers with a few other abilities thrown in. They aren’t permanent companions; when they die, you may have to hoof it to another part of the zone you’re in and raise some new ones. Necromancers need to collect lots of body parts to research new forms of undead, which can be a time and/or money sink.
Weather Witches control the weather in very short-term bursts. These are brief pseudo-pets, such as whirlwinds that fling an enemy away for 15 seconds, rain squalls that drown out fire beasts, and so on. Weather Witches are a controller class and their pets are very versatile, but not very damaging. They don’t have to do much prep work besides carrying a few spell components around with them.
That’s the plan, anyway. Necromancy is probably the first of the three that will get implemented, followed very closely by animal handling. I have both of those skills planned out, I just haven’t had a chance to implement them yet! Weather Witches are much less designed, and may end up being punted until after the game ships.
Technically, lots of other skills use the “pet system” — for instance, Fire Magic has a “Fire Wall” pet that just stands around and burns things. It’s implemented as a pet internally, but since it’s a wall, it can’t follow you around. It’s more like a trap. I think pseudo-pets like that are pretty fun.
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