Posted by: Jess Riley | August 27, 2008

Good and Evil

Before I start, can we do something of a thought experiment? Before you keep reading, I just want everyone to think to themselves the answer to this question: are the Horde evil?

Interestingly, I think that of those of you who primarily play Alliance would be inclined to say, “Yes.”, while those who primarily play Horde would be inclined to say, “No.” I don’t know what fence-sitters would do – perhaps hover in the air indeterminately until they are forced to keep reading and pick a side.

What this basically comes down to, however, is essentially the point of my post today. My sentiment can be summed up with one sentence: Everyone is the hero of their own story.

It may be easier to explain my point if I use a non-World of Warcraft example. In a society where women are treated as second-class citizens, there’s a man we’ll call Joe Bloggs who has just gotten married. When his wife does not act as he thinks she ought, he seeks advice from another man and is advised to beat her to encourage her to act appropriately.

Now, in today’s society, we’d consider that to be abominable behaviour. Further, I think we’d describe a man who beats his wife to get her to act appropriately as a bad person, if not an evil one. However, if Joe Bloggs takes this advice, he doesn’t think he’s a bad person for it, and society doesn’t think he’s a bad person. Is he a bad person? Well, from my perspective, yes. But he doesn’t think he is.

Much the same thing applies to World of Warcraft. The Alliance – and, possibly, the players of the characters in question – will think that my magic-addicted blood elf rogue and her drunk of a warlock brother are essentially bad people, but the two blood elfs won’t see themselves as being bad people.

What does this mean to roleplay? A lot, in my opinion. Something that a lot of people do inadvertantly when playing a ‘bad’ character is Kicking the Dog – or worse, Raping the Dog. (For those who don’t like to follow links or don’t want to get off track; kicking the dog is an action that ‘proves’ that the character is scummy by doing something needlessly cruel, while raping the dog is an action that tries to show the character is evil by doing something unrepentingly cruel, unnecessary and extreme). That is, a lot of people try to show that their character is a bad person by having them do something bad just for the sake of doing something bad.

This comes across as unrealistic a lot of the time, as no one (or very few people) do hrrible things just for the sake of doing horrible things. Everyone is the hero of their own story – they think they’re doing the right thing, or at least, not too bad a thing, even if no one else agrees. If they didn’t think it was acceptable or justifiable, they probably wouldn’t do it.

But wait, I hear you cry. Sometimes people do things that they know are bad – they steal, they lie, they cheat on their partners.

Well, yes, people do. But they don’t do them for no reason at all. No one goes to a store and thinks, “I’m going to shoplift, because I’m an evil bastard.” They shoplift because they want to look cool to their friends, or because they really want the item and can’t afford it, or to spite the corporate conglomerate. They know it’s wrong, but they still have some justification for their behaviour that makes them choose that line of action as opposed to some other. They won’t look at what they’re doing and think, “Wow, I sure am evil.” They might think, “Oh, that was not a good thing to do.”, but they still have some reason for wanting to do it.



  1. Here’s an Alliance player that doesn’t believe the Horde is evil. It’s more like a misunderstanding that resulted in bad blood that can’t just be washed away.

    The Legion’s control over the Horde in the early days of Warcraft and Warcraft 2 pitted the Orcs of the Horde and their allies, the Darkspear (I think, if I remember right) Trolls (oh, and a few Ogres) against the Humans, Dwarves, and High Elves of the Alliance. The Alliance weren’t aware that the Orcs were under demonic control, and finding out in Warcraft 3 really only created an unsteady peace agreement, for the most part.

    The players on PVP realms can easily say, “But we’re at war!” though the truth is almost glaringly obvious. The Alliance and Horde are NOT at war anymore. We have Gadgetzan, Ratchet, Booty Bay, Shattrath, and Area 52 as proof of that; cities where both factions are easily welcomed.

    It is easy to say that the factions are at war when there is a PVP element. The Battlegrounds are mostly to blame for this – we are, after all, being instructed to assault target X in order to prevent the other side from gaining valuable resources (just what does that flag do, anyway?), but if you take the battlegrounds away, what do you have left in the grand scheme of politics? Plausible deniability.

    Let’s say that a few Horde players decide to attack Darnassus. They lead an assault, and either succeed and escape, or are crushed (killed). When Darnassian ambassadors go to Thrall or Sylvanas or whomever to file their grievance, it would be easy for the Horde leaders to say, “We were not behind this assault. It was performed by an individual group with no sanctions by this government (for lack of a better word).” File under ‘T’ for terrorist activity, and call it a day.

    In the grand scheme, every Player Character in the WoW universe is a small fish, no matter how powerful they might become. Their deaths will go unnoticed, and only true heroism (killing Onyxia, Magtheridon, etc) will be recognized in the eyes of your Faction.

  2. Since the rest of my comment seemed to have been truncated…

    Neither side is Good or Evil. It would be like comparing the United States to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Two separate sides with their own agendas that happen to conflict.

  3. I was going to do a follow-up post which more clearly established where I stood on the Horde-Alliance matter, beyond how to (or rather, perhaps, how not to) roleplay a ‘bad person’, but it seems as though you’ve effectively summed up a lot of what I wanted to say.

  4. Sorry if I wrecked the plan, Jess. 😦 In retrospect, I probably should have written all this on my own blog, but I didn’t think I’d go all Big Bear Butt on it.

  5. Well, it’s no biggie. It’s just now I need to find something else to write about. 😛

  6. In the battle between good and evil, the powers of evil will be defeated

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