After years of playing computer RPGs, I’ve come to realize there is a character ‘type’ that I am always drawn toward playing: burly men of a helpful disposition, wielding the kind of swords that require two hands and rippling biceps. The sort of steel that wouldn’t look out of place in Conan’s hands.
Other char gen options – your spells and arrows and the like – hardly come into consideration. Put it this way – if you see my character with a bow, it’s only to hobble a faster-moving enemy so that I can move close enough to finish them properly.
With a giant piece of steel, if that wasn’t already obvious.
I don’t know where this predilection comes from. Melee-based characters are more straight forward to play versus spell-slingers with their myriad of wards and potions and incantations, but complexity isn’t the enemy. Spells and arrows just aren’t as satisfying as a sword wielded well. There is just something simple and satisfying about facing danger head-on and hacking away at it until it is substantially less dangerous.
Part of the answer, I sense, comes from childhood. I grew-up watching the Conan movies, and I will forever love Arnold for that reason. In the Dragonlance novels, I was always drawn the most to Camaron. And there is no denying that lightsabers are Bad Ass, no matter how cool Han and his blaster are (and his opinions on the usefulness of Jedi weaponry aside).
Even when playing tabletop D&D, my first inclination is always to roll-up a fighter, mechanically the least interesting of all the options. There is just something exciting, and yes, even romantic, about standing on the front-line and facing the unknown. Or in lingering behind to brace a bulging door, buying time for companions whilst orcs pound away, trying to get inside.
My characters are also nice guys, mostly, collecting quests like a starving man choosing from a buffet – which is to say, indiscriminately. Fetch quests, escort missions, investigations and mysteries – its something of a wonder how the world got on before I arrived on the scene. Often I’ll even eschew payment, the satisfaction of seeing a wrong righted the only coinage necessary. Like I said – nice guys.
This isn’t to imply my characters are strictly honorable do-gooders. In Skyrim, my “heroic” Dragonborn was something of a kleptomaniac, breaking into homes at night or finding the dark corners of stores to load his pack with stuff. My iteration of Geralt in the Witcher 2 likewise helped himself to whatever he desired, and though he professed love for the fiery redhead Triss Merigold, he single-handedly kept the brothels in business.
Some RPGs grade your ‘goodness’ with a sliding scale. In Star Wars KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic, my favorite RPG of all time) and the Mass Effects, my character was all light, no shades of dark or even hints of gray. Although sometimes Commander Shephard couldn’t resist giving the council the bird by ending transmissions prematurely. Because screw those guys anyway.
Friends sometimes extol the virtues of going ‘dark’ (once you go dark you don’t go back?). The assassin, the serial killer, the power-hungry megalomaniac: these are character types favored by those who would visit chaos upon virtual realms, who would sow anarchy among the indigenous NPC populace. And, I must admit, there is a certain allure to this kind of hair-letting-down. Life is full enough of rules and restrictions, isn’t it? Why not live as the other half, if only in a digital world?
I have tried to be bad. None of the characters of the Skyrim Chronicles thus far could be confused with virtuousness. In fact, I’ve skewed darker with those characters as something of a reaction to my first, bleach-white, Dragonborn character. But even they aren’t truly evil, black-on-black entities. They might do dark deeds of necessity, but they have Reasons, you see. Motivations. Maybe this is a perception thing – almost anything can be rationalized within a character’s head, seeing the world through their eyes.
I can’t even play a damn video game without looking into the character’s head to see what makes them tick.
I’m not immune to the Evil Instinct, that pull to do dark work. Sometimes it’s nigh on impossible to resist. When given the choice to nuke Megaton or disarm the bomb early in Fallout 3, I played the savior, but I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting I wasn’t at least tempted. Even now, years later, I wish I had done it, if only to quickly reload to a slightly earlier, less radioactive time. Can you imagine roasting marshmallows over that fire?
When the tug to do dark deeds grows hard to resist, I’ll usually bargain with myself, offering deferred gratification. Not this playthrough – this character wouldn’t do that. Next playthrough I’ll get my Evil on, with a new, sufficiently motivated character.
But who am I kidding? I’ve reached that stage of my life where Time is the precious commodity and everything serves at its pleasure. I barely had enough time for this play-through, much less to retrace my steps with Black Boots on. There are many and more delicacies to savor, and so I must always be moving onto different fare, like a bee flitting about a garden.