Mar 4, 2012

Heroes are Extremists (Part Two: Good)

Find Part One here.

I'll do you all the kindness of shortening this article: I'm not going to recap, click the link above if you want to know what I'm talking about.

Good is the end of the Axis of Intent that I will cover first, the end that we all usually associate with the hero character. The good character is selfless. He will sacrifice himself for the good of the many and do whatever he can to bring justice to the world. But with a little stretch of the imagination, this character can be a hero or an antagonist.

Lawful Good- The lawful good antagonist may seem a paradox, and often it is, or at least difficult to craft well. By nature the good character is selfless and supports justice, so in this case you must use the lawful aspect to your advantage. A lawful good character must adhere to laws and codes to implement justice, and these can often be cumbersome and inefficient, which presents an obstacle if placed in opposition to the players' need for expedience, or it can simply be annoying to chaotic characters or those attempting illegal action. In any case to make what can be a heroic figure into an obstacle law's bureaucracy must be emphasized. This makes the lawful good character into a sort of speed bump or wall that antagonizes the players in their need to circumvent it, if they are good, or to destroy or avoid it if they are criminals, wherein an interesting Inspector Clouseau dynamic can be established (has anyone pulled this off in the long term? Let me know, faithful commentators). Keep in mind that this lawful good antagonist is rendered useless against strictly lawful players, who will be obliged to obey the same laws, unless they have knowledge of or means to find some loophole or technicality unknown to the protagonist.

The lawful good protagonist is much easier to create: we know him as the hero. The lawful good hero is the Captain America; the simple, unironically good guy. This hero works best in a world where all evil is crime, wherein a lawful solution is always the right one. Of course, the easy recipe for controversy is to call into question the propriety of a lawful solution: would it be alright to kill Joker for all he has done? Should you really save the terrorist from him bomb, or let him die? But beware pulling this too often, as any disillusionment ruins the lawful good character (excepting rare cases I'm sure some of you can bring up)

Neutral Good- The neutral good character still acts on behalf of the public good, but may use unusual means: not strictly lawful, but hard to pin as illegal. As a protagonist this may be the righteous protestor, but is hard to make a hero in the present time of the game. Such figures as Martin Luther King Jr. have been considered such, though, and I doubt it is impossible to create such a character.

This kind of character does present a dilemma to lawful characters, however, in that the lawful may be helpless to stop, on the basis of law, a character who is doing something potentially obstructive to public safety, like a crowded mob of strikers blocking a road, or having the potential to turn violent. In this way the leader of these groups, if control is lost and the mob turns violent, is an antagonist in his responsibility, even if it was not his intent, retaining his neutral goodness. This antagonist again is more an obstacle than an active threat, and potential for violence lies more in his followers who may not be so strictly goo or neutral.

Chaotic Good- The chaotic good character is willing to break any laws in the pursuit of justice and the public good. This can create a very intense hero or anti-hero in this capacity, but from the perspective of a lawful character, the chaotic good is a menace with a blatant disregard for the law who should allow justice to be served through the law. Many vigilante characters lie in this grey area, sometimes leaning more toward neutral. Batman promotes the system of courts and jail, but himself commits break-ins and assault to achieve this goal.
This kind of extreme do-gooder can make a compelling hero, but to J Jonah Jameson Spiderman is still a menace. At the end of The Dark Knight, Gordon still has to send the cops on Batman, because these are not the traditional heroes, and so are controversial and can be approached as either a hero, as above, or a villain. (a great example is the Teen Titans story A Kid's Game. The heroes were the Teen Titans, but Deathstroke in combating them was trying to prove their own risk, to stop more children from dying, even if he had to kill more to prove it, is he a villain? Sure, but evil? ...)
The system so far...

 On the good end of the spectrum it is hard to find villains. One can hardly undermine common values while selflessly helping everyone he can. But we do have antagonists. Many of them in the form of misguided obstacles.

Shall we see what kind of character's lie dead center in the spectrum? Tune in later for Part Three: Neutral

No comments:

Post a Comment