Monday, November 13, 2017

Playing the Bad Guys

I got to play the trial of Battlefront 2 over the weekend, and one of the fun things about the game is there is a Single Player campaign where you play as a special forces operator...that works for the Empire. It's  aneat shift in perspective, and the game does a good job in the missions I saw of showing the Imperial perspective. I'm not saying it made me think the Empire was the good guy, but if I knew nothing else about Staar Wars I wouldn't be too hard pressed to think the Empire might be them (at least so far.)

Which got me to thinking - again - of the possibility of doing a game where the PCs worked - willingly - for the bad guys. There are all sorts of dangerous pitfalls to avoid when doing this, but to do a really good "Work for the bad guys" campaign, the first thing you need to is make the PCs think they're the good guys. How do you do this? You do it by controllling what goes on camera.

The Good Guys...
In the original trilogy for Star Wars the good guys are the good guys because that is who the PCs end up joining. This is backed up by a couple small things to help sell it: Owen and Beru's death is pinned on the Empire. Vader is menacing and in all black. Vader force chokes/kills people who displeases him. The name of a weapon being called the Death Star.

This is 4 points, all rather easily avoided. Even the weapon being called the Death Star can be forgivable with other framing.

On the other hand, if you wanted to make the Empire the good guys you have tools on your side. The Empire is the official government and it is a democracy (it has a Senate after all ;) ). The Rebels are law breakers, and violent ones at that. They attack and blow up military installations. They're violent terrorists. What could be better than fighting that?

Everything Comes From Somewhere
In the expanded lore for Star Wars, the Rebellion is given more good guy cards by showing the plights of others. Aliens who are starving. Aliens that need medical supplies. Frequently it shows the downtrodden as aliens and the Empire's poor treatment of them as justification. So the good guys hit the Imperial installation and take the medicine and go off to help their alien friends.

But where was that medicine going? The Empire isn't just keeping that stuff stock piled to cause civil unrest. It's meant for someone. And this is what you show to make the PCs feel like the good guys. They're recovering stolen medicine meant for a population that needs it. Don't show the need of the other population and your PCs will feel justified. Just like watchers feel justified when they end with the happy aliens getting their food and medicine.

Emotional Bonds
The last lever is to make emotional bonds with other people on the PCs side. Show them the best of the Empire. Have them become friends with other troopers and characters. And have those characters reinforce the message that the PCs are good. Villify the opposition when they kill those friends because they're doing whatever their thing is.

Even if the players are somewhat aware maybe things aren't on the up and up, the emotional bond and severing will stilll cause emotional reactions and hatred for the "good guys" so to speak.

The Reveal
If you want a reveal, it's easy enough to happen. All those things you were hiding that would normally be on the screen? Just show them. Show how the PCs have helped this - even if only tangentially involved. It works, and it's fun. Plus, if you can have the PCs thinking they're good guys while they're bad guys, you avoid a lot of the problems inherent in telling people it's an evil campaign and having to deal with who finds what acceptable for evil.

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