Games Where Player Characters are the Bad Guys

aramis erak

Legend
Monsters! Monsters! It was an expansion for Tunnels and Trolls.
Not an expansion; a different game on the same engine and setting. There are minor mechanical differences, and M!M! is separate standalone corebooks in all editions.

Also note: When Flying Buffalo was sold after Rick's death, M!M! and T&T became separate IP's. Ken owns M!M!, and it's no longer on Trollworld. Ken no longer is involved with T&T proper.

Source: Ken St. Andre on Facebook.
 

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aramis erak

Legend
Not from most points of view, at least not in my experience. Even in the old days with adventures like Keep on the Borderlands, it was usually made clear in the adventures that PCs were kicking doors and clearing out bad guys. i.e. The default assumption of most of those fantasy games isn't that the PCs are bad guys.
From an objectivist point of view, D&D dungeons are homes to various non-humans; the demi-humans and humans come in, kick the doors in, kill those in their way, and hen loot the place.
Whether players realize or not that they're being basically nothing more than home invasion robbers is beside the point. The basic "KIll Them All and Take Their Stuff" play mode is objectively unheroic. It's also a staple of D&D proper since the early weeks of play. BY 1975, it was a very common mode, and by 1981, the assumed default mode.

Judge Dredd is less villainous than the average dungeon raiding party. The only redeeming factor in old school dungeon invasion is that the beings within were incapable of being good, and therefore were cheap killable foes.
 

MGibster

Legend
From an objectivist point of view, D&D dungeons are homes to various non-humans; the demi-humans and humans come in, kick the doors in, kill those in their way, and hen loot the place.
An objecctivist point of view? Who can forget Ayn Rand's hot take on the use of force in D&D:
Ayn Rand said:
When a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law, men who use force to seize the wealth of victims, then gold becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob goblinoids, once they've passed a law declearing them creatures instead of human or demi-human.

Whether players realize or not that they're being basically nothing more than home invasion robbers is beside the point. The basic "KIll Them All and Take Their Stuff" play mode is objectively unheroic. It's also a staple of D&D proper since the early weeks of play. BY 1975, it was a very common mode, and by 1981, the assumed default mode.
I'm not sure what you mean by objective. Are you familiar with the Iliad? These great heroes of the tale, including Agamemnon, Ajax (both Greater and Lesser), Achilles, Paris, and even Hector, are all the type of people who kill their enemies and acquire loot. The central conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon, which leads Achilles to sitting out most of the story sulking in his tent, is because the Aggie took from Achilles the loot he had acquired in a raid. In this particular case the loot was named Briseis whom Achilles captured when he raided Lyrnessus killing her parents and brothers in the process. (Oh, I see what you mean by unheroic.)

Nobody thought this was unheroic at the time though. When Hector stood on the walls of Ilium with his son Astyanax, voicing worries that his wife would end up working the loom in another man's house and his son killed, he then turned around and wishes his son to be an even greater warrior than him. i.e. He wanted his son to gain fame and glory going out there and enslaving women and making them work the loom in his house. Hell, the Greeks were so into looting, we have examples of these heroes stripping the corpses of their enemies in the middle of the battle.

I do not agree with your interpretation of D&D even in the early days. In Keep on the Boderlands, the Gnolls have a torture chamber where you find a half dead merchant. They have slave pens where you can find goblins, humans, and orcs. That would seem to imply that they're going out and raiding human (and other) settlements or caravans. They're not just a group of Gnolls sitting around in their Caves of Chaos minding their own business.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Nobody thought this was unheroic at the time though.

If we take, for the moment, that the Greeks of the time thought this behavior was okay, even laudable, that leaves us with the obvious question - were the Greeks correct in that thinking?

It seems to me that a position amounting to, "If I do not think my behavior is villainous, then I am not a villain," rather defeats the purpose of having the words hero and villain.
 

MGibster

Legend
If we take, for the moment, that the Greeks of the time thought this behavior was okay, even laudable, that leaves us with the obvious question - were the Greeks correct in that thinking?
I would answer no, but I don't see how that's relevant. The point is that within the context of their society it was not viewed as unheroic. Within the context of D&D, to quote the great Ranger Minsc, "butt kicking for goodness" is not unheroic. Entering the caves of a bunch of Gnolls who keep slaves and torture merchants, killing them, and liberating their belongings are not unheroic acts. Even in 5th edition, we continue to kill sentient beings and take their stuff in this game of heroic fantasy. D&D is not a game where the PCs are inherently bad guys.
 

There are two (or more!) possible standards here:

Are the PCs bad guys by our standards? (Probably, in most D&D games, if you think about it too hard.)

Are the PCs bad guys by the standards of the world they live in? (Usually not, though a few modules have explored this possibility.)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Within the context of D&D, to quote the great Ranger Minsc, "butt kicking for goodness" is not unheroic.

Within the context of D&D, what is, or is not heroic should be a setting conceit and table agreement. Proclaiming what it should be for all is beyond our purview.
 

MGibster

Legend
Within the context of D&D, what is, or is not heroic should be a setting conceit and table agreement. Proclaiming what it should be for all is beyond our purview.

I understand the weather gets a bit cooler with altitude, so please wear a hat while you're sitting on that high horse beacuse I don't want you to catch a chill. I'm trying to figure out what the point of your post is and I'm coming up blank. You're specifically calling me out for "proclaiming" what D&D should be, but for some reason it's completely acceptable for someone else to say a certain game style is unheroic. They didn't say it was unheroic within the context of certain settings, they just said it was unheroic. I disagreed, but I didn't suggest to them that it wasn't within their purview to have an opinion.

A lot of conversations here would probably go a lot smoother if people would just remember to mentally tack on "In my opinion" at the beginning of each post. We're all just stating our opinions here, and I'm not going to get uspet if someone has an opinion I disagree with. But I certainly don't have the gall to suggest that someone has no business having their opinion.
 

aramis erak

Legend
If we take, for the moment, that the Greeks of the time thought this behavior was okay, even laudable, that leaves us with the obvious question - were the Greeks correct in that thinking?

It seems to me that a position amounting to, "If I do not think my behavior is villainous, then I am not a villain," rather defeats the purpose of having the words hero and villain.
Agreed.
I'm firmly on the "The Greek Heroes are really anti-heroes"... they are, in many ways, the epitome of xenophibia. The Greek Philosophers' civilization's rules for life would be considered criminal acts today... slavery, corporal punishment¹, gender discrimination, pederasty², child-marriage³...

So I find @MGibster 's appeal to the Greeks as entirely unconvincing; the Greek's definitions of good and evil are not the same as modern Western Civilizations.

The appeal to Ayn Rand? Well, even a broken clock is correct at least once per day. (I've seen enough 24-hour dials...) She takes a position that is common, but not borne out by research for teens and older, that games activity trains the player to do those things in real life. For some, yes - which is why I cringe when people have kids under 8 playing RPGs, playing violent videogames, or learning combat arts... because there is significant correlation for the under 8 group, it's weaker the older the player. (I can't open the textbook PDF anymore to get the citations.)



¹: The legality of it varies widely, from none at all in some US states, to only if culturally or regligiously inherited, and/or "only if it leaves no mark."
²: I'm not going to explicate it.
³: As in, under the age of criminal adulthood (16 or 18 in the 'States, by state). Still practiced in some states in the US... one still allows age 14...
 
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Wow, this conversation is getting... Interesting. Better get in before it gets locked.

The whole 'kill them all and take their stuff' thing has been humanity's default mode for most of human history. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who I admire and follow, just got dragged, justly, for slamming on European (white) culture when he said ''European history is basically 'Is that yours? It's ours now! ' ''

Yes, there's a lot of truth there. It's also true that was Mongolian history, it was also Egyptian history, it was Persian history, it was Bantu history, it was Aztec history, it's Chinese culture today.

The world's major religions were based on the ''It's ours now! '' model, ask the Canaanites or the Amelikites about that if you can find any.

So the kill them all and take their stuff model may be evil, but that means for most of recorded history most of humanity was evil.

But we can choose to change. Ever see the original trek ep "A taste of Armageddon?" All it takes is one simple statement. ''I will not murder today. ''
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
In the campaign I'm in, the DM called us glorified murder hobos.

He's not wrong. However, we're not the kind of hobos that kill anyone or anything for kicks and giggles.

In order to complete our specific objective we will kill anyone that stands in our way. We will break into buildings to follow a lead, and we have killed guards that tried to prevent us from entering the buildings.

We justify this behavior because our objective/quest is righteous. We see ourselves as "holy warriors", but when you step back and look at the big picture, we are the bad guys in many cases.
 
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When I played the original Deus Ex game I tried to play good guy. I never killed guard dogs, police or unatco troops, I avoided or used non lethal on them.

Now when I was going up against MJ12, MIB or violent criminal thugs, yeah, it was Dalek time.

So i understand the desire to be a good guy. I tried to be a non hypocritical one too.
 

Wow, this conversation is getting... Interesting. Better get in before it gets locked.

The whole 'kill them all and take their stuff' thing has been humanity's default mode for most of human history. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who I admire and follow, just got dragged, justly, for slamming on European (white) culture when he said ''European history is basically 'Is that yours? It's ours now! ' ''

Yes, there's a lot of truth there. It's also true that was Mongolian history, it was also Egyptian history, it was Persian history, it was Bantu history, it was Aztec history, it's Chinese culture today.

The world's major religions were based on the ''It's ours now! '' model, ask the Canaanites or the Amelikites about that if you can find any.

So the kill them all and take their stuff model may be evil, but that means for most of recorded history most of humanity was evil.

But we can choose to change. Ever see the original trek ep "A taste of Armageddon?" All it takes is one simple statement. ''I will not murder today. ''
And then the person who decides not to follow that statement kills you and takes all your stuff. (Star Trek itself did a bit with this where the Mirror Universe Terrans get inspired by Mirror Spock to be less violent and then get conquered by someone else.)

Refusing to engage in war effectively works as a multi-person prisoner's dilemma with large rewards to the first one to break the rules. Even our modern standards, imperfect as they are, are backed by the military and financial power of a large international hegemon which, of course, has its interests come first.

I'm not advocating breaking into the house next door and taking their stuff, but 'might makes right' is the norm historically, and even more so pre-historically, and before that in the animal kingdom. Before that bacteria would secrete toxins to kill other bacteria.

(Perhaps this is the reason stories of paladins and the like are so attractive...we'd like to believe that the people with the power are morally just, because IRL it just isn't so most of the time. There's a well-known franchise where the bad guys win...it's called real life.)
 

SLA Industries is a game where you are freelance troubleshooters for the evil universe ruling corporation. It's a bit like Paranoia, but you are trying to win corporate sponsorships and fame while walking the tightrope between proving your worth to to your superiors while not uncovering any dirty laundry that puts you on the hit list of the dozen agencies that suppress information.

Battlelords of the 23rd Century has the PCs being mercs for various corporations (so all the usual cyberpunk gray morality), under the umbrella of a galactic alliance. Other then rival corps and alien menaces, you have to deal with rebels; it's often hinted that there is a terrible truth behind the whole alliance and the rebels (as bad as they are) might not really be the bad guys.
 

mythago

Adventurer
The Arc Dream crew talk pretty openly about their politics, but also about the fact that it's basically a game about the war on terror, and not in a good way. It's not a situation where you need to read the tea leaves and wonder what they're up to. They chat about it in livestreams. Hell, their newest recruit wrote what might be the most blatantly anti-capitalist, anti-establishment game in the history of the hobby (Red Markets).

I don't disagree with you that DG as written is very open about the ugliness of state power, but I thought it was John Tynes who said the original conceit was finding an excuse for a standard RPG-style PC party in Call of Cthulhu - a horror subgenre that is canonically about lone weirdos with perhaps one or two allies. Having the PCs all be FBI agents was the workaround, which later expanded into cross-agency Agents on a task force.

Depending on how purist you are about your definition of TTRPGs, Winterhorn is definitely a game that is about playing bad guys - or at least PCs working for an oppressive and ruthless state regime, whose goal is to neutralize an activist group using tools ranging from propaganda to outright murder. (Interestingly, it's left vague in the game whether the activist group is "good". But the PCs are definitely not nice people.)
 

I don't disagree with you that DG as written is very open about the ugliness of state power, but I thought it was John Tynes who said the original conceit was finding an excuse for a standard RPG-style PC party in Call of Cthulhu - a horror subgenre that is canonically about lone weirdos with perhaps one or two allies. Having the PCs all be FBI agents was the workaround, which later expanded into cross-agency Agents on a task force.
Thanks so much for clearing that up! I was wondering what their idea was. Wanting to do D&D in Call of Cthulhu is sort of a pretty natural thing to come up with.
 
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MGibster

Legend
The appeal to Ayn Rand? Well, even a broken clock is correct at least once per day. (I've seen enough 24-hour dials...) She takes a position that is common, but not borne out by research for teens and older, that games activity trains the player to do those things in real life. For some, yes - which is why I cringe when people have kids under 8 playing RPGs, playing violent videogames, or learning combat arts... because there is significant correlation for the under 8 group, it's weaker the older the player. (I can't open the textbook PDF anymore to get the citations.)
The Rand comment was just a joke stemming from your use of the word objectivist. I usually see objectivist used to describe ideas stemming from Rand' philosophy of Objectivism. To the best of my knowledge, she never said anything about D&D. Though I bet she would have played a Barbarian.
 

payn

Legend
The Rand comment was just a joke stemming from your use of the word objectivist. I usually see objectivist used to describe ideas stemming from Rand' philosophy of Objectivism. To the best of my knowledge, she never said anything about D&D. Though I bet she would have played a Barbarian.
Now I'm picturing Rand as a 3E/PF1 cleric or bard making liberal use of the Enthrall spell. Everyone stands around listening to long winded speeches about capitalism while nodding in agreement.
 

The Arc Dream crew talk pretty openly about their politics, but also about the fact that it's basically a game about the war on terror, and not in a good way. It's not a situation where you need to read the tea leaves and wonder what they're up to. They chat about it in livestreams. Hell, their newest recruit wrote what might be the most blatantly anti-capitalist, anti-establishment game in the history of the hobby (Red Markets).
Hmmm, gotta look that up.
And even if you go strictly by what's in the books, the detailed history of Delta Green is as a litany of horrors and screw-ups and corruption on the part of the org. The adventures and GM guidance talk constantly about agents going rogue, DG cells being ordered to wipe out other cells, and the toll all of it takes on the PCs, because of all the terrible stuff they have to tell themselves is necessary, like the deep state monsters they are. It's a horror game, and some of the best horror has no good guys, just various shades of bad, including people who are certain they're murdering other people for the right reason. There's no need for the GM or players to drink the Kool-Aid or justify any of the protagonists' beliefs, any more than playing a game like Blades in the Dark means seeing the PC crew as the least villainous gang in a world of greater villains. These are morally complex, challenging games. It's ok to just lean into what the characters want and believe, and how the setting inevitably grinds them into dust, and leave the heroics to other games.
Kinda like 40k, where you might murder innocents by the thousands or millions today to save billions later. Exitus acta probat.
 

DonoZen

Explorer
I know a few people mentioned Warhammer in general, but the core setting of Warhammer Black Crusade rpg you specifically play agents of chaos, twisted by the warp.

In most of the other WH 40k settings you are usually of the imperium living a hard life, being more like anti-heroes not actual villains or bad guys. Lots of heroic space marine action to be had.

There are all kinds of cool ideas and ways in the Black Crusade campaign book to keep the player groups together and focused on common goals to achieve a game without it devolving into players vs players chaos or infighting.

It’s my favorite Warhammer setting.
 

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