On June 11, 2003, I discovered the wonderful world of text-based role-play. While at my mothers for my six week visitation, I stumbled across The World Called Hollow. At that time, I did not know that fourteen years later, I’d still be logging into that site. Hell, I probably didn’t think I’d be blogging about it, either. Since that fateful day, I have grown as both a reader and a writer. It’s no surprise that when it comes to these things, people enjoy writing the hero. Everyone can save the world, fending off bad guys and saving innocents. The thing about villains though, is this: they are often NPCs (non-player characters) that exist solely to die.
One of the truths about text-based role-play, or any form of role-play for that matter, is that it allows the writer to live vicariously through a fictional character. If you’re like me and a bit fluffy around the middle, you can be a slender vixen or a lithe elf (though I have played some voluptuous characters as well). If you are shy and soft-spoken, in-game you can be an outgoing, sword-swinging warrior or an obnoxious, dagger-wielding rogue. You can be a hero or you can be a villain. It is a story that you write with others.
I decided to focus this post, the first in a series of blog posts detailing the things I’ve learned from The World Called Hollow, on why it is okay to play villains in a game. For those of you that roam the fictional world of Lithrydel, you may know me in game as Lady Larewen Dragana. An unstable elder vampire whose thirst for power is insatiable and her sole weakness is a good guy.
Why Play a Villain?
This is a question I’ve received countless times, especially as of late. I choose to play a villain because that is how Larewen’s story unfolded. Tragic, but true. In the summer of 2003, I introduced Larewen to Lithrydel as a fairly young elf. She had a sunny disposition that, over several years, became clouded through abandonment, betrayal, and death. An unexpected incident from the outside became a driving force in pushing her toward evil. From there, various events in her life drained her of her good intentions. As a result, she discovered it is pointless to aid others, to help others, if there is nothing for her to gain from it.
What initially began as fairly pleasant, sometimes boring role-play began to evolve into increased conflict. In my earlier years playing this game, villainy was far more rampant than it is at present. The lack of evil characters, I must admit, takes away from the reality of a game: not all people are good. I don’t do well with dullness which is probably why I loathe romance novels. I decided to let the story chart its own course instead. More recently, this desire to introduce conflict in the game has resulted in some contempt. Nonetheless, there is a unique sort of thrill that comes from penning the character that seeks the destruction of others.
From this behavior, Larewen has developed a fatal flaw. For Larewen, the prospect of power, the comfort of darkness, is the addict’s substance of choice. It is a defining characteristic that breaks my heart, yet is vital to Larewen’s being. Believe it or not, but I have cried countless times over her actions.
Why Bother? The Good Guys Always Win.
First, it is necessary that, as a role-player, you drop that mentality. The good guys don’t always win and if you take a good look at the history of the game you’re playing, be it The World Called Hollow or another text-based role-play, you’ll see that. In Lithrydel, the drow occupation of Sage Forest, home of the elves, has only recently ended after several years. For that to have happened in the first place means that Trist’oth, the city wherein the drow reside, must have conquered Sage. Likely this is true in other text-based role-play games as well.
Second, this complaint is a self-fulfilling prophecy in and of itself. If no one is willing to create, play, and write evil characters, then of course the good guys are always going to win. There’s no one to put up a true, honest-to-goodness fight.
I Don’t Want My Character to Die.
Neither do I. In fact, I don’t know many people who do want their characters to die. At least, not before their time. Like all stories, a time will come when your character’s tale must end. For the good guys, that tends to be old age, poor health, or less commonly, the victim of nefarious deeds. If you choose the latter, you can either write it out yourself or let a bad guy do it. I think we can all agree on which form of that is the most entertaining.
Despite the fact that we, as role-players, pen our own story, there seems to be an unspoken stigma that evil characters must die. This is not true. We’ve all watched cartoons where the villain never gives up. Time and time again, he or she is thwarted and so he or she devises a new plan of attack. It may sound cheesy, but this is an option that is available to you. Or, like me, you can go into the scenario expecting success. Your character does not have to die simply because they are evil.
Just Do It.
Those are three words to live by. Rather than worrying about whether or not there is a point to writing an evil character, simply do it. Give it a shot. If you enjoy it, that’s great. If you don’t, then switch to a good one. Create a story arc where your character seeks redemption. There are always options available to role-players. These stories end when you, the player, decide they do. Sit back, relax, and have fun.
Lithrydel and the locations within it are not my property. If you’re interested in getting into text-based role-play and have a fondness for medieval style, high fantasy stories I suggest giving it a shot. It’s a great way to take your mind off things and escape from the troubles and pressures of the real world.
If you’re interested in playing a villain, I am always open to showing a new player the ropes. Through the game, you can reach me using the in-game mail system, Hollow Mail, by addressing it to Larewen. If you discovered the site through this blog post, then be sure to include my character’s name in the box titled “referred by.”