I keep meaning to actually read these other game design blogs I’ve stumbled upon — really, I do. It’s just that I spend so much time you know, working, that it’s hard to find time to read or do other stuff that isn’t at least tangentially related to whatever I happen to be doing at that moment in time. Workaholic problem. I get it.

So, I found a moment to pop over to Dungeons & Differentials, and I skimmed the first couple pages. A blog post caught my eye, and so I clicked through to “Dark Souls: Sin and Punishment” to read about Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls.

There’s an interesting idea there — I recommend reading the article for an overview of the “World Tendency” thing — about rewarding players for taking certain kinds of actions over others. In particular, the idea that dying creates darkness, and rooting out corruption alleviates said darkness.

And that “Darkmoon Covenant” thing? I was all like, “what?”

I guess what I’m failing to convey here is the idea that performing “good” or “evil” deeds might have some kind of immediate and believable consequence. The game’s setting establishes clear connotations for what constitutes as right, and what the punishments for wrongdoing are.

But with neither a diligent computer to track your character’s transgressions, nor the greed of other online players desiring to invade your world and serve as the harbinger or vengeance, how do you convey a sense of moral significance?

First of all, should you even try to convey a sense of moral significance? I’m going to say yes, ’cause it’s challenging and fun for me. Now, moving along.

Various editions of Dungeons & Dragons have Inevitables — Lawful constructs who crossed the planes to mete out vengeance for a variety of crimes — but in general, I’ve yet to see them portrayed with enough consistency to make them playable. Perhaps the worst is when they’re shown to be fallible.

Then there’s the problem of having straightforward enough moral concepts that players can effectively choose to behave themselves or not. Is killing a monster the same as murdering an NPC? Where does self-defense factor into a dungeon crawl? Are avatars of vengeance themselves guilty of murder?

This will probably lead me back to my Destiny/Agency alignment system — maybe going so far as calling all PCs one or the other for the sake of making it work.

Actually, I wonder if that would work? Calling all PCs “Destined,” on account of dice-rolling or some mechanical factor inherent in roleplaying? Every Player Character might well be considered an agent of prophesy, regardless of the “choices” their player makes with regard to their actions.

I’ll have to think about that some more.