Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Role-playing Torture

Ordo Serpentis plays on a non-role-playing server, Garona. Most of us however have a background in actual tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and I, for one, will often put together a brief background that defines who my toons are.

For instance, Korathnord is an orphaned barbarian who was raised by high elves after the Scourge destroyed his people. This influences a few of my decisions in game. He chose Scryer as his Outland faction because of the blood elves, for example. He also now sports a "blood elf" hairstyle thanks to the new barber shop. But that's about as in-depth as this "role-playing" gets.

Enter Northrend and some of the new quests. Some folks have been commented on the sheer number of "poop" quests in Northrend. I've noticed an almost disturbing number of torture quests.

"Here, hit this guy with this pain wand until he talks."

"Here, feed this stuff to the prisoner downstairs."

"Here, stand by and watch as I torment this undead with holy pain."

"Ok, worgen, talk or I shoot your wife."

I'm not quite sure what to think about this. In real life, I have some pretty strong opinions against torture. I know this is a game, but I find these quests unsettling. I've sort of resolved my ambivalence by asking myself, "Would my character mind this sort of thing?"

It's bringing the role-playing aspect of my toons back up. Some would, as I understand them. Some would not. Stofnar, my new main, is a paladin and I still think of paladins as "holy warriors of virtue" from D&D. He would oppose this sort of thing. Nord wouldn't care. He's a barbarian after all.

Most people probably don't think about this, but it does add a disturbing aspect to the storyline. It points out something folks who are big into lore have known for a long time. Just because the Alliance is made up of the "good" races and the Horde the "evil" ones, it doesn't mean that the Alliance is all virtue and light and the Horde all evil and darkness. The Alliance can be quite villainous and the Horde very noble.

And now Stofnar has some soul-searching to do.


Cainam said...

Yeah I'm with you on this. I mean it's a cool idea, but ultimatley, yeah kinda icky.

My issue here is that you don't have the choice. Want to go to the Nexus? Then you have to torture the guy.

In one sense, this is not Fable. There is no consequence for good or evil actions that I can tell. but Yeah I would like the option to say "No I won't do it" Maybe I don't get the gold but still get to complete the quest chain.

(The torture one is particularly dirty becasue they mention in the game that the Kirin'Tor cannot perform this action for moral reasons, but it's OK for you to do so.)

In this way, we are playing into the hands of Arthas. This is what he expects. Heroes will become corrupted in thier drive to do good. This is after all what happened to him.

LRNs said...

Actually, you aren't the only one who's come to this conclusion.


Tortuous Replies

But honestly, the fun didn't start there. One the first times I ever questioned the ethics of a quest was in the night elf starting area. Or do you forget the Satyr on the road to Dolanaar? If you do his quest, you will get chastised by the folks in town.

It was then and there that I turned off my ethics sub-routine and started playing the game. For 3 years, I killed, extorted & skinned for revenge, gold & experience. Then I ran into DEHTA and my irony alert went off. Of course, it didn't stop me from skinning everything that moved & doing all the DEHTA quests. Could you imagine if the folks at blizzard had made this more "realistic?" Ever wonder what RPG server people do?

Then the torture and poop questions started. I found myself revisiting questions of ethics and good tastes. Acknowledge, move on...

All I can say, knowing you, is that I would be more disturbed if you didn't notice a problem.

Now, go get your XP and fat lootz!

Karthis said...

I've been to the Nexus without doing that chain (or any of Borean Tundra).... so there is a choice.

Hell - even if you couldn't get into the Nexus, you still have a CHOICE - you just may not like the repercussions of choosing to avoid the quest.

This quest has prompted a lot of discussion.... which in the end can't be a bad thing.

Cainam said...


I thought that the quest chain in question was a pre-req to the Nexus quests. If it's not. OK, my bad.

But that still doesn't equate "choice" in the game. Sure we always have a choice. We could choose that the Defias are a rightous band of freedom fighters and never do Deadmines or that the Trolls of Zul'Aman are rightfully entitled to the lands occupied by the blood elves.

But since there's no game play surrounding those choices my only choice is to play, or not to play. What I'm looking for are choices within the structure of the game. It's not like I can mount a formal protest against the Kirin'Tor for thier brtutal tactics or try to overthrow the city of Dalaran. The game is not designed for those possibilities.

I'm not saying that the quest shouldn't be in the game. I'm saying that I wish the game had some way to deal with this issue besides "Well just don't do it and forget I asked."

Typhia said...

Actually I think this is exactly what Blizzard wanted out of these quests. Have you played the human campaign in Warcraft 3? Arthas started out good, did some questionable things, and eventually became the Lich King. I'm pretty sure one of the things the developers want for the players in this expansion is to walk a mile in Arthas' shoes, so that when you get to Icecrown you have some emotional involvement in the culmination of the story arc. Black Temple and Sunwell totally failed in that regard.

Mardigilian said...

I had much the same reaction. "You can't torture the guy, because it's against the ethics of the Kirin'Tor? But it's okay for you to give me the tools and the idea? And you're not even going to leave the room? I haven't seen situational ethics like that since Ben Kenobi."

Having done most of my early playing on RP servers, I've run into a few situations where I had to say "my character just would not do this." My night-elf avoiding the satyr quest, my orc not taking the fedex to Nessingwary--"I'm no dwarf's errand boy."

I think there's definitely a story-telling element to the inclusion of these quests. Blizz seems to be making more of an effort to remind folks this is, at heart, an RPG. BC seemed to be more first person shooter--although a lot of that may have been my rush to catch Mard up everyone else. I also think there's some social commentary going on there. It certainly echoes some RL issues that would have been prominent while the expansion was being developed.

Nord said...

Wow. Good discussion here. I'm impressed that this has generated so much.

A couple of additional thoughts...

@Typhia - I agree there's an element here of walking a mile in Arthas' shoes. WC3 handled his fall from grace with incredible storytelling, far better than say a certain Jedi in a recent prequel trilogy. The problem however is that there's an element of TMI in an MMO. There's not one single storyline at play in this game, and I and probably others can get lost in it. The most-infamous torture quest comes in a series of quests completely unrelated to Arthas. Not sure if everyone is going to make the connection there.

@Mard - I agree there's more story here than in TBC. TBC is the follow-up to one of the expansions to WC2, which had far less story development (and popularity) than WC3 and its expansions, which were the basis for the story in Classic WoW and WotLK. Better source material means better story.

@everyone else - I think an alternative quest option would have been a good idea and enriched the storytelling a bit. There are presidents for that. In Desolace, you get two quests, one for each centaur faction. You can't really do both, so you have to choose which one will become the Alliance's friends. Why not have a "I refuse to do this" quest option with its own storyline to follow?

Mardigilian said...

Perhaps one with less xp but more Kirin'Tor rep?