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Independant Gamer Perspective

What makes a hero or villain? (comments please!)

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We have a discussion going in our gaming group about the definition of a hero or villain in gaming terms, that is understood by both player and GM.

Is "heroic" usually based in good/evil or malicious/virtuous? I would guess its gotta be good/evil since evil may act virtuous in pursuit of their goals.

Here's the initial text -
Hero or villains are labels for those characters adopting roles center to the game plot who also choose a code of conduct (evil or good), and choose a "side" or "cause" (IF such is available and willing to let the character endorse them) to champion so that they may work the code to the benefit of their allies. Hero's and villains are visible, public, and quite obvious about their goals and intent to further their cause and as such attract attention - wanted or not.

So gamers out there - would this work for you as a technical means of assessing hero/villain status in order to have some extra benefits conferred on you?

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  1. Karithay's Avatar
    A hero or a villain is defined by the lens of any particular social group. One may extol "virtues" of a hero while another may malign those same qualities. We see it all the time in real life. Defining hero/villain status via such subjective and mutable definitions though really makes it tough to work into a game system. If you chose to go such a route, I would only advocate using the hero option and not the villain option since an individual championing one cause will necessarily be the villain to another. At that points its not terribly difficult to define the virtues of a particular culture/brotherhood/faith/whatever that one would champion.

    The other approach, as you've stated, is to provide some universal definition of good & evil, which is its own problem. Most take on a very modern western viewpoint. In such a situation you are effectively just adopting one of many subjective view points and raising it to a level beyond all others, presumably validating it as correct or better than any other view point. It can't be denied that using a simple universal good/evil or law/chaos or cherry/rhubarb axis makes any such system easiest to use, which is its best selling point.

    Although I favor the first option, its ultimately your call on which you feel makes the most sense for your game / setting and to what degree you wish to incorporate added complexity. There is nothing to say that you can't simply combine the two either.

    From the definition you've provided, it seems you're leaning towards the first option but you're trying to couch it in terms of the second option. If you are trying to go the first option, provide a few examples. You may even define purchasable abilities related to the various cultures/view points that clearly denote the character as a champion, paragon, or embodiment of their values.
  2. TaiRei's Avatar
    Heroes and Villains are just extraordinary characters that make a large impact in the world they are in. The distinction between the two is a purely subjective definition. They are often opposing with differing viewpoints on similar issues. What is one person's hero may be another's villain. I hesitate to draw delineations based on a morality scale as they often wildly differ from one person to the next.

    I suppose it could be put forth that a Villain in gaming terms would be the 'heroic' antagonist to the player character's heroes. A villain is no good if he/she isn't a dire threat to the player's characters.

    That being said, the definition is adequate to describe what a Hero/Villain could be. It doesn't have to go further in-depth really, that's just extra flavor at that point. I favor more murky definitions because that's the way the real world works. But it is all a game afterall. So maybe the simpler approach would be perfectly reasonable in this case.
  3. templeorder's Avatar
    Keep in mind this is definitely a "high fantasy" approach. Two opposing heroes are just that - in game terms they would be heroes, in story terms each would be labeled a villain by the other side - but may still be "good" characters. Its not morality per se, its more about a code of conduct. Villain would be the one adopting evil, malicious behavior. We slap the label of villain on them when in fact to their culture they are a hero - exemplifying their highest values. But in game terms, to assess benefits gained from such a situation (higher purpose, quest, story vehicle), it sounds like the labels work.
  4. Sascha's Avatar
    Classically-speaking, they'd all be heroes, in the vein of Herakles/Hercules, Arjuna, Robin Hood, Davy Crockett: individuals whose acts uphold the ideals of a culture. (A culture hero, in more modern terms.)

    You may want to drop the 'villain' label, and take out the ethical choice (good, evil), for the real culture hero experience. That is, a culture tends not to elevate an individual if their behavior doesn't jive with the local scene; as long as the virtues - used here somewhat loosely - exhibited are those that the specific culture wishes to promote, the individual's in the running for hero status. Whether a given culture is "good" or "evil", based on the game's mechanical ethics system, is irrelevant to its honoring of culture heroes (thus, so is the choice between good and evil).

    (Also, morality is a code of conduct. The picking of nits, I know. Other than that, pretty spot-on implementation of the culture hero~)