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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Something about Redcloak has been bothering me for some time. In short, I think that while the effort put into giving Redcloak more dimension than the other villains is admirable and has provided a surprising breadth of material for the comic, ultimately, he fails as both a character and as a villain, and that these stumblings are indicative of a problem with the comic as a whole.

    Originally, RC was just Xykon's put-upon right hand man, plucky but often belittled, almost childlike at times. "Start of Darkness" more or less reinvented Redcloak from the ground up. As presented these days, Redcloak is something of a misguided anti-villain, someone who is unquestionably evil but who has been driven to evil by his poor lot in life and who is motivated by what might be an admirable goal if he wasn't going about it in such a horrifying, reckless way. In SoD, Xykon characterizes RC's agenda as "Whiny 'evil but for a good cause' crap," which more or less sums it up.

    This has been the firm conception of Redcloak, his character, his past, and his motivations since SoD, and the position of the comic's narrative has been both that Redcloak is evil (no arguments about "moral justification" please) but that his cause is, at least in theory, just. So what's the problem, in my estimation? Well, in order for Redcloak's good cause to be good, the comic has to cheat and employing a double standard that undermines its integrity. Goblins in "The Order of the Stick" have, at least post-SoD, been depicted as a put-upon, persecuted race. They are widely victimized, particularly by the Paladins of the Sapphire Guard (Mr. Burlew's creative notes characterizes the guard's downfall as moral blowback from their too-zealous crusades against goblinkind), and even by the gods themselves.

    Perhaps you can already see the problem with this; in D&D, goblins are never harmless creatures that you can leave to their own devices without having to worry about them. Goblins, in D&D, are always a threat, and therefore violent conflict with them is almost always inevitable. That conflict is more or less the engine that drives the entire game. So this notion that Paladins are sometimes unjust crusaders and that goblins are sometimes innocent victims, and that this cycle of violence gives rise to more significant, costly forms of evil, feels to me like something of a cheat. It only works and makes sense if "The Order of the Stick" is not a comic about D&D.

    Of course, many would argue that it is indeed not, and that that's actually a good thing, but if you ask me, that's where the cheat comes into it. The comic wants to be about gaming and D&D whenever it's convenient for the sake of humor, but then when the comic wants to employ drama (or melodrama) it works around the conventions of the source material. The schism between these two approaches is evident in the wildly varying characterizations of Redcloak pre and post-SoD; it's an inconsistency, one that is now woven into the fabric of the comic. Sometimes the comic is one thing, sometimes it's another, and these two natures are not only conflicting, they're just plain contradictory. For Redcloak to make sense now, the entire comic has to make less sense.

    "The Order of the Stick" has always been about how game rules and conventions wouldn't and don't make sense if applied to anything resembling a "real" situation. The difference, of course, is that pre-SoD, those inconsistencies were played for laughs. It is, indeed, funny to think about turn-based tabletop RPGs in literal terms. But when you take that same dynamic and try to fabricate high drama out of it, indeed, try to fabricate a sometimes long-winded moralizing argument out of it, that's less successful. Game rules ARE inherently funny, but they are not inherently tragic, that's only something that we can project onto them. Even when "The Order of the Stick" mocks the rules and artificial conventions of the game, the conventions are still a part of the world and a part of the comic (otherwise the joke wouldn't exist). But Redcloak's narrative and background are at odds with those conventions; in order for it to work, those conventions have to simply not be so.

    So either "The Order of the Stick" is about the black and white, binary world of tabletop gaming (and how strange and silly that is), in which case Redcloak does not make sense as a character, or else it's about a more nuanced, complex world that doesn't at all resemble tabletop gaming, in which case the comic as a whole has been undermined. In short, you can't have it both ways, but Redcloak's story tries to anyway.

    "The Order of the Stick" is a remarkable piece of work, in that the degree of complexity and maturity in it evolved organically over many years, from its somewhat crude origins into the thrilling, imaginative, multi-faceted narrative we enjoy now. It is inevitable that, when a story (and a writer) change this much over this long of a period of time, that a few things just won't add up in the end. That's just the nature of the beast, and I'm not attacking the comic as a whole or the writer for this.

    I am, however, puzzled and even quietly dismayed at what I think was a damaging blunder in how this one, increasingly prominent character was handled, particularly because these character decisions are actually not the result of the comics' early growing pains, and in fact are the very thing that marks a major turning point away from the tone of that early material. That the comic has to cheat and work outside of its own concepts to fabricate the present characterization should be an indicator that it wasn't a great idea to begin with. Sadly, Redcloak is now so tightly woven with the primary conflict that it seems both impossible to reverse the tide and unlikely that he will fade into the background as the finale (whenever it comes) nears.

    Ultimately, I would say that this is a lesson against trying to do too many clever things at once; Redcloak and the other villains' comparative simplicity might have seemed like an Achilles heel once the comic started to become smarter and more nuanced, but in trying to make them a match for the rest of the series,the comic has been burdened. Moral conundrums do not necessarily always make a story better, and the effort to fabricate them in a work not well-suited to them often makes it worse.
    Last edited by Nerd_Paladin; 2012-02-13 at 06:56 PM.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    I'm not convinced of this, mainly because I don't think that Redcloak and his character arc are as dissonant with the rest of the comic as you think. In the first place, I'd note that - as the Giant has said on a few occasions now - The Order of the Stick is not a comic solely about D&D in any sense, humorous or dramatic. There are still jokes about the rules, but generally most humor now is character-based.

    However, I think there's a more fundamental flaw then that with your argument. Let's say you're right, and The Order of the Stick is indeed primarily a parody of D&D. Historically, humor about the real world has both poked fun at its foibles and examined more serious problems with it, often at the same time. With Redcloak and his character arc, I would argue that The Order of the Stick is doing the same thing. The idea that goblins and similar monsters are all evildoers who can be freely slaughtered by PC races may indeed be a crucial part of D&D, but it's a part that can leave many people morally uncomfortable, myself among them. Parodying many of the concepts of D&D is not mutually exclusive with doing a more serious study on some of the game's more worrying aspects, any more then a work of comedy about the real world doing the same thing.

    In other words, if - and I do feel this is a big if - the fundamental premise of The Order of the Stick is a world where the rules of D&D form the basis of existence, then I don't think it's a "cheat" at all to both laugh at how ridiculous that can be and simultaneously examine how aspects of it are more unsettling in the light of real-world morality.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    "The Order of the Stick" has always been about how game rules and conventions wouldn't and don't make sense if applied to anything resembling a "real" situation.
    No. It may have been once, although some may argue it never has. This seems to be the very base of your thesis, and a flawed base compromises the whole logic.

    in D&D, goblins are never harmless creatures that you can leave to their own devices without having to worry about them. Goblins, in D&D, are always a threat, and therefore violent conflict with them is almost always inevitable.
    This is not true as well, as it depends on campaign setting, not game mechanics.
    Last edited by Kondziu; 2012-02-13 at 07:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    You seem to be missing Redcloak's entire point. The goblins were designed to be evil, nothing more than fodder for adventurers. The gods essentially decided that they all deserved to die from the very beginning. The Dark One and Redcloak are doing this because they want the goblins to be more than easy EXP for D&D campaigns.

    It's a deconstruction of the D&D morality system. It's supposed to expose the flaws in the "black and white, binary world of tabletop gaming". Redcloak's plight reflects the fact that the Alignment system doesn't work in a real life system. That monsters such as the Goblins don't deserve to be butchered for simply existing.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    The idea that goblins and similar monsters are all evildoers who can be freely slaughtered by PC races may indeed be a crucial part of D&D, but it's a part that can leave many people morally uncomfortable, myself among them.
    Well, I would say there's two reasons why I've never felt that that was a worthwhile interpretation of the material (if you'll pardon my saying so), and why I actually find it a little tiresome.

    One, the idea in the average D&D game is NOT that goblins can be freely slaughtered as a matter of kind but instead is that violence with monsters is inevitable because those creatures act as a direct threat to others. The image of peaceful, minding-their-own-business goblins getting run down en masse by racist Paladins is not the nature of D&D; those goblins are almost always looting or raiding some place nearby, or monkeying around with magic they don't understand that threatens to unleash Something Bad, or just generally being *****. I've yet to find a D&D adventure where the villains weren't up to something villainous.

    Two, D&D is a world of black and white morality, in most cases. Even the concept of shades of grey was codified in neutrality, really an idea that's just as simple and straightforward (albeit annoyingly hard to actually implement) as good and evil. Trying to apply your real world morals to it (often resulting i the self-inflicted discomfort you're feeling) is like trying to determine the morality of a lion eating a gazelle; they're just not compatible.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    That sure is a lot of words to say "I don't like moral ambiguity."
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    To expand a bit on what Kondziu wrote...

    1) Order of the Stick invokes game-rules to be funny. Sure, there are a lot of things that happen because of game-rules... but the only times they are directly discussed by the characters is to either make a joke, or explain a change (such as Redcloak casting 9th level spells).

    2) One can be Noble and Evil at the same time. Nobility of desire does not require Goodness of Heart.

    3) Redcloak isn't out for "equal treatment for Goblins". He's out for "Goblins getting as much power as he can get for them."

    4) Even before the publication of "Start of Darkness", there was a hint of "I'm only working for you because I have goals of my own" about Redcloak's interactions with Xykon.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    I like it when it works, makes sense, and doesn't damage the work as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by RSLee View Post
    You seem to be missing Redcloak's entire point. The goblins were designed to be evil, nothing more than fodder for adventurers. The gods essentially decided that they all deserved to die from the very beginning. The Dark One and Redcloak are doing this because they want the goblins to be more than easy EXP for D&D campaigns.

    It's a deconstruction of the D&D morality system. It's supposed to expose the flaws in the "black and white, binary world of tabletop gaming". Redcloak's plight reflects the fact that the Alignment system doesn't work in a real life system. That monsters such as the Goblins don't deserve to be butchered for simply existing.
    But that doesn't really make sense; if the alignment system really works, then goblins DO need to be "butchered"; because they're evil, and violent, and dangerous, and will surely butcher others. But the comic supposes that while the alignment system exists and was imposed on the world by the gods, it is somehow not really an accurate representation of those creatures' nature...meaning that, really, it doesn't exist. You see how this dynamic breaks down almost as soon as SoD enters into the narrative.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    But it doesn't work. That's the point. There are too many shades of grey in the world and morality is much more complicated than the D&D mechanics imply.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    And it's not even just about the problems with a black and white morality system, real though those are. While I usually don't enjoy it, sometimes it can be fun having no real shades of gray to a story. No, what I view as the real problem with goblins and the like in D&D is that they are entire species of nothing but villains. That's troubling on multiple levels.

    In standard D&D, yes, goblins aren't misunderstood souls being slaughtered by murderous PCs - although as others have pointed out, that can vary from setting to setting. The goblins of Eberron tend towards LN and have more in common with Klingons then "generic fantasy mooks", and in point of fact, while I don't care much for Eberron as a whole I give it major props for separating race and alignment across the board. But that's also besides the point. It doesn't matter as much whether goblins "in-universe" are genuinely an entire race of bad guys or not; what bothers me and others is the out-of-universe implications of that design choice.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    I believe that OOTS has always had, as one of its primary themes, the 'nature' of alignments, and what that translates to when looked at in a more serious light. See: All commentary on Therkla, the judging of Roy, the Belkar's Mark of Justice subplot, the Celia/Haley/Belkar scenes on the way to Greysky City, every single page of Start of Darkness and Redcloak's backstory, Miko Miyazaki's entire characterization... among others.

    Combined with the fact that this takes place in a world which is based on (but not beholden to) the raw rule mechanics of D&D, rather than the flavor text of every rulebook, I think you have something which isn't failed characterization. I think it's exactly what it's supposed to be.

    But yes. The rules of creation don't always make sense. The Gods aren't infallible. Maybe that's the point.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by RSLee View Post
    But it doesn't work. That's the point. There are too many shades of grey in the world and morality is much more complicated than the D&D mechanics imply.
    Yes, the real world is, but the artificial game world is not. So is "The Order of the Stick" about a realistic moral world or an artificial binary one? It can't be both. In short, either Redcloak makes sense, or the comic world does.

    Might I add, the simplistic statement that you cannot behave in a morally complex world the way you would in a black and white one adds up to little more than, "Duh," so I have trouble imagining why anyone would bother. There's more to what's going on than that because, well, there has to be. No one would bother using 800+ comic strips to argue that when such an argument doesn't even need to be made.
    Last edited by Nerd_Paladin; 2012-02-13 at 07:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Yes, the real world is, but the artificial game world is not. So is "The Order of the Stick" about a realistic moral world or an artificial binary one? It can't be both. In short, either Redcloak makes sense, or the comic world does.
    It's not about an artificial binary world. There, case closed.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Then why is the artificial binary there? Why is it the basis for so much material in the comic? In effect, we're saying that the alignment system exists, and is real, and is the work of the gods, but doesn't really apply to the actual people in the world and should not inform their decisions. This, then, is why the world of the comic doesn't make sense, why its narrative is increasingly muddled, and why it's a great example of how a story can be strained by trying to do too many things. That's my estimation, anyway.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    The way I've been looking at it for a while is that the whole issue with the gods and the goblins is that it approaches the subject of "objective morality -- as interpreted and enforced by beings that are inherently fallible". That is to say, the world of D&D is one of absolute, objective morality, with the nature of good and evil being built right into the mechanics of everything. But when it comes to that actual interpretation of good and evil? The issue of who decides if someone's undergone an alignment change, or if a paladin's committed a deed worthy of Falling? Who has that power?

    Ostensibly, the objective forces of morality. In practice, the person running the game. Who may have many notions of good and evil that other people agree with -- but if you disagree, there's no appeal except to quit playing.

    Which is not an option open to the Dark One or Redcloak. They're part of the setting, not the campaign. Their kind was created to be evil, and rather as an afterthought made to convenience their PC classes. This comes off as a criticism of any "evil race" being thrown in without any real rhyme or reason to it except that it works for a campaign, but would make little sense as an element if we were to look at the setting as a self-contained world of its own. In SoD we see in a lot of ways this classification is wholly arbitrary and superficial. We know Redcloak and his allies are evil because they are goblins, who worship a deity known as The Dark One, and they eat "evil" food at an "evil" diner served by an "evil" waitress and it's all just surface dressing, really.

    What ultimately dooms Redcloak is the combination the setting provides of "evil because we need conflict" and "evil because we believe these things to be evil." The "arbitrary" evils are drawn in to ally themselves with an evil that's actually earned its title through deeds, and Redcloak transforms more and more from a basically well-meaning character with an unfortunate classification he had no real choice in, to an actually evil character willing to do anything to achieve his ends. To a degree he is undone by his own personal weaknesses, but it is the combination of those flaws with the legitimately unfair situation he was put in that leads to his undoing. So the reader is left to some personal discretion as to what degree they condemn him, an ambiguity I approve of.

    Their whole "rage against the heavens" plot turns very meta in that they are waging war against the game itself, and are in fact quite willing to let the game and their entire existence within it come to an end in order to achieve their ends. I see that it undermines the setting, but I don't think the inherent criticism is without merit. Creating races that are "always chaotic evil" simply for the ease of a campaign without fully considering the ramifications of their existence within the logic of a setting undermines the very concept of good and evil in the first place, and sets up the ultimate "arbiter" of good and evil (the GM/the gods) as arbitrary, capricious, and even cruel. I actually like it a great deal as a deconstruction of the whole affair.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    All you're doing here is projecting your own highly specific interpretations of what D&D is "supposed" to be, with paper thin villains who are evil for no reason and have literally no existence beyond disposable packets of experience points (except for human villains, who can of course be as morally ambiguous as they like by virtue of not having a listed alignment or green skin). That's all well and good in your own game, but every DM, every sourcebook writer, every player has their own interpretation on that with what they like to write, read, or play. And frankly, the whole school of "intelligent mortal beings should have whole societies of nothing but mindless destruction of all other societies for no reason other than the story says so" in literature kind of went out the window along with pre-Modernism.

    What you are asking for is, in short, a crappy story a DM would throw together in 20 minutes before his friends get back with the Doritos. That's fine, I run D&D that way because I'm lazy. I sure as hell don't want to read a story like that, though.
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Derider View Post
    Combined with the fact that this takes place in a world which is based on (but not beholden to) the raw rule mechanics of D&D, rather than the flavor text of every rulebook, I think you have something which isn't failed characterization. I think it's exactly what it's supposed to be.
    That's a good point. I believe goblins are "Usually Neutral Evil" (though I'm not sure - it could be lawful or chaotic) but there's no actual mechanics, which is what the OOTS world really runs on, that prevents some goblins from being non-evil or goblin society as a whole to change (and that will probably be necessary if this thing is to end happily - most goblins we've seen have been evil).

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Can I get the Cliffn-

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    That sure is a lot of words to say "I don't like moral ambiguity."
    Perfect, thank you. And armed with that knowledge, I can grab a similarly enlightening snippet from the OP. Something, like...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Goblins, in D&D, are always a threat, and therefore violent conflict with them is almost always inevitable. That conflict is more or less the engine that drives the entire game. So this notion that Paladins are sometimes unjust crusaders and that goblins are sometimes innocent victims, and that this cycle of violence gives rise to more significant, costly forms of evil, feels to me like something of a cheat. It only works and makes sense if "The Order of the Stick" is not a comic about D&D.
    Revelation ahoy! This is what we in the biz call a "de-con-struction." Why are Goblins always a threat? Why are Paladins always just, even when they go a-slaying? Why does the cycle of violence never present a problem in D&D?

    Those are questions OotS wants you to think about, by transplanting the familiar rules and customs of your game into a living world. You have - rightfully - come to the conclusion that game logic doesn't translate so well to an actual fantasy setting.

    Or to put it sunccinctly: it's not a bug, it's a feature, working as intended, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Those are questions OotS wants you to think about, by transplanting the familiar rules and customs of your game into a living world. You have - rightfully - come to the conclusion that game logic doesn't translate so well to an actual fantasy setting.

    Or to put it sunccinctly: it's not a bug, it's a feature, working as intended, etc.
    Okay...so what? I'll say it again, if you come up to me and say, "You know, you really can't apply black and white RPG thinking to a more complex real world situation," I'll say, "duh." And then ask if maybe you've been out in the sun too long? This is such a shallow analysis that it barely even seems worth writing down in plain speech, much less building such an elaborate story around. No one anywhere thought that D&D alignment was a good measure for how the world works.

    Nor was it intended to be; rather, it's just a convenient tool for defining in-game conflicts. But people started thinking about alignment as the be all and end all of the game (ie, thinking "These goblins are being killed because they're evil," rather than "These goblins are being killed because they keep attacking travelers on this highway,") and then getting "uncomfortable" about it, often as an excuse to indulge in long-winded, self-indulgent tirades about ethics designed to make themselves look more high-minded than everyone else. If I had a low opinion of this comic, I'd accuse it of being just that and probably wouldn't bother reading it anymore, but as it seems to be a generally good work, I'd prefer to think that it just tried too hard and lost its way.
    Last edited by Nerd_Paladin; 2012-02-13 at 08:00 PM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Okay...so what? I'll say it again, if you come up to me and say, "You know, you really can't apply black and white RPG thinking to a more complex real world situation," I'll say, "duh." And then ask if maybe you've been out in the sun too long? This is such a shallow analysis that it barely even seems worth writing down in plain speech, much less building such an elaborate story around. No one anywhere thought that D&D alignment was a good measure for how the world works. Nor was it intended to be; rather, it's just a convenient tool for defining in-game conflicts. But people started thinking about alignment as the be all and end all of the game (ie, thinking "These goblins are being killed because they're evil," rather than "These goblins are being killed because they keep attacking travelers on this highway,") and then getting "uncomfortable" over it.
    But that's exactly what you're asking the author of the story to do. To think of goblins as just "evil" rather than having any reason whatsoever to do whatever it is they're doing wrong.
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    And the goblins in OOTS are being killed because they keep attacking travelers on this highway. The whole point of the Dark One's backstory is why they keep attacking travelers on this highway. At least, that's my interpretation.
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Then why is the artificial binary there? Why is it the basis for so much material in the comic? In effect, we're saying that the alignment system exists, and is real, and is the work of the gods, but doesn't really apply to the actual people in the world and should not inform their decisions. This, then, is why the world of the comic doesn't make sense, why its narrative is increasingly muddled, and why it's a great example of how a story can be strained by trying to do too many things. That's my estimation, anyway.
    1. Alignment system exists, and it is the work of gods
    2. It is an attribute imposed by gods, arbitrally
    3. Goblins are *made* Evil, arbitrally
    4. One's alignment does not influence one's future decisions
    5. One's decisions do influence one's future alignment

    It is the status quo. Why should it not be contested?

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Honestly, I think there's at least one essential piece of the story that we're missing about the goblins. I don't think they are quite the "innocent victims" that Redcloak makes them out to be. There's something else going on here; we just don't know what.

    Oh, and D&D is not always black and white. Trust me. Some DMs run their games that way, but there are plenty who don't. It won't be hard to find stories from people who played those games.

    I certainly don't see how debate about the portrayal of goblins causes Redcloak's characterization to be a failure.
    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Well you've got two options - you can either wait for life to throw you a bone, or you can make your own by tearing it out of Life's quivering body, with your bare teeth and nails in a frenzied bloodied act of cannibalism.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    I'm also starting to get the impression that you just plain don't like moral ambiguity in your D&D.

    I certainly don't see how debate about the portrayal of goblins causes Redcloak's characterization to be a failure.
    "Failed characterization" is pretty much indisputably the wrong phrase. Nerd Paladin's argument is that Redcloak's characterization and the non-black-and-white portrayal of goblins is dissonant with the rest of the comic and is hurting it as a whole, but that doesn't make the characterization itself a failure.
    Last edited by ti'esar; 2012-02-13 at 08:06 PM.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kondziu View Post
    This is not true as well, as it depends on campaign setting, not game mechanics.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    That sure is a lot of words to say "I don't like moral ambiguity."
    I see other people already got to the things I would have said to the OP.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Then why is the artificial binary there? Why is it the basis for so much material in the comic? In effect, we're saying that the alignment system exists, and is real, and is the work of the gods, but doesn't really apply to the actual people in the world and should not inform their decisions.
    Mm no. What the people you're addressing are saying, rather, is that the alignment system is not as simplistic as you're claiming it is--not in D&D, not in OotS--and the "artificial binary" isn't there. Redcloak is a complex, multilayered, and Lawful Evil character. If you think there's a contradiction there, you've fundamentally misunderstood D&D.

    This, then, is why the world of the comic doesn't make sense, why its narrative is increasingly muddled, and why it's a great example of how a story can be strained by trying to do too many things. That's my estimation, anyway.
    There's nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting a simplistic black-and-white world for simplistic hack-and-slash games.

    There is something wrong with thinking that that's what the D&D books present, because it's wrong and will lead to inevitable disappointment.

    There is a great deal wrong with thinking it's what the OotS comic ever presented or ever will. It has already led to disappointment and will continue to do so. Get used to it. As long as you look for a world where "see green skin, kill" is morally viable, you will continue to find OotS "muddled" and "nonsensical."
    Last edited by Kish; 2012-02-13 at 08:08 PM.
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    "The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in the future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present--they are real." --Aral Vorkosigan

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by ti'esar View Post
    "Failed characterization" is pretty much indisputably the wrong word. Nerd Paladin's argument is that Redcloak's characterization is dissonant with the rest of the comic and is hurting it as a whole, but that doesn't make the characterization itself a failure.
    Oh, I know that's what Nerd_Paladin is saying, but those two words are right there in the title of the thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Well you've got two options - you can either wait for life to throw you a bone, or you can make your own by tearing it out of Life's quivering body, with your bare teeth and nails in a frenzied bloodied act of cannibalism.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd_Paladin View Post
    Okay...so what? I'll say it again, if you come up to me and say, "You know, you really can't apply black and white RPG thinking to a more complex real world situation," I'll say, "duh." And then ask if maybe you've been out in the sun too long? This is such a shallow analysis that it barely even seems worth writing down in plain speech, much less building such an elaborate story around. No one anywhere thought that D&D alignment was a good measure for how the world works. Nor was it intended to be; rather, it's just a convenient tool for defining in-game conflicts. But people started thinking about alignment as the be all and end all of the game (ie, thinking "These goblins are being killed because they're evil," rather than "These goblins are being killed because they keep attacking travelers on this highway,") and then getting "uncomfortable" over it.
    Often very long works are dedicated to very simple concepts, that is literature (otherwise how do you create synopsis and English papers?). The length is added not only in order to wrap the concept in familiar terms in order to make it engaging, but also so that multiple arguments can be fleshed out that arrive at the same conclusion.

    However, I would hesitate to say that the point of OotS is to analyse the deficiencies of DnD morality. That is one sub-theme of one character, Redcloak. That is his story, which, as it is somewhat independent of the main narrative, makes him a compelling character, because he is not a tool of the Order's plot but a guiding figure in his own.

    Finally, I think that your arguments that Evil is more than just a label in DnD is quite justified, and I feel like Rich is planning on addressing it. In particular, Jirix's ominous crush of the demon roach I think signifies a much more destructive turn for Gobbotopia.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Spoilered for book stuff:
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    But why are those goblins attacking travellers on a highway? What motivates anyone to do good or evil? I don't think Redcloak or goblins are necessarily depicted as good in the comic, but ghettoized in the classical sense. The moment they've been put on earth by and large their only source for survival is picking off humans. I don't think the point with Redcloak is to simply say "lol shades of grey", but to peel back a little bit on the motivations that can cause a rational individual to do pretty much objectively irrational things.
    Honestly, I think the theme can be a little played out these days, but with Redcloak it's come hand in hand with some pretty epic moments. I think the scene where he kills Tsukiko about defines it. Note that he has the spell cast to take control of her undead at any point during their conversation, but it's not until she disrepects his intelligence and power by basically labeling him a random goblin minion of xykon's that he actually feels compelled to take bloody, ironic revenge.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Alright.

    So one one hand, we can have Goblinoids being created solely to serve as fodder. Created for the explicit purpose of being slaughtered by the Clerics of Gods, thus increasing the levels of their Clerics and thus increasing their influence. Essentially, they were betrayed before they even set foot on the planet. To prevent them from posing real threats to their chosen races, they are situated in backwater areas with no resources and no strategic values. Thus, forcing them to turn largely to banditry to keep themselves alive.

    On the other hand, we can have Goblinoids be evil because...They're evil. EVIL. EVIL EVIL EVIL. MAIM DEATH KILL BURN DIE.

    But its okay. I can understand why you wouldn't want moral ambiguity in D&D. You've got enough to think about, so why waste time thinking about if these Goblins are raiding the roads because they have little to no other options to make a living or because...They're evil.

    EVIL. EVIL EVIL EVIL. MAIM DEATH KILL BURN DIE.
    The Doctor Is In.

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    Default Re: Redcloak's failed characterization, and what it means for the comic as a whole.

    Quote Originally Posted by DoctorIllithid View Post
    Alright.

    So one one hand, we can have Goblinoids being created solely to serve as fodder. Created for the explicit purpose of being slaughtered by the Clerics of Gods, thus increasing the levels of their Clerics and thus increasing their influence. Essentially, they were betrayed before they even set foot on the planet. To prevent them from posing real threats to their chosen races, they are situated in backwater areas with no resources and no strategic values. Thus, forcing them to turn largely to banditry to keep themselves alive.

    On the other hand, we can have Goblinoids be evil because...They're evil. EVIL. EVIL EVIL EVIL. MAIM DEATH KILL BURN DIE.

    But its okay. I can understand why you wouldn't want moral ambiguity in D&D. You've got enough to think about, so why waste time thinking about if these Goblins are raiding the roads because they have little to no other options to make a living or because...They're evil.

    EVIL. EVIL EVIL EVIL. MAIM DEATH KILL BURN DIE.
    There's no need for straw-manning. Nerd_Paladin has every right to dislike the direction the comic's taken with Redcloak. What I'm objecting to is declaring that an objective "failure", especially in light of the arguments he makes to justify it.

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