Monday, April 11, 2011

Tip for Making an Ethics Challenge

Homeschools are great for teaching virtues. Parents who spend their days with their children can actively shape their character without worrying about what sorts of conflicting messages they're receiving while away at school all day. Role-playing games are one tool parents can use to challenge their students to think about questions of morality. With games, kids can practice applying their virtues in make-believe situations. But how do you create these ethical challenges?

One easy way I've discovered is to eliminate "black and white" situations. In traditional fantasy RPGs, "monster" races are almost always considered evil, while "hero" races (like elves, halflings, and dwarves) are almost always considered good. The evil goblins have raided the local villages, and the heroes track them to their lair, slay the evil critters, and seize the treasure. So far so good, no shades of gray (unless the party of adventurers tries to keep the loot that rightfully belongs to the villagers). But what if it wasn't so cut and dry?

What if goblins aren't automatically evil as a race? Many would be rotten to the core, sure, but maybe that's partially a product of their environment. What if it turns out that the land where the villages stand once belonged to the goblins, but they were forced off of it by the king's men? What if this is just the tail end of a back-and-forth feud going back so many generations that nobody remembers who started it? Violently invading the goblin lair and walking out with treasure takes on a whole new complexion in that light. This is why the saying goes that the scariest thing in a dungeon is a party of adventurers!

A scenario like the one above might be a little tough for kids to sort out, but you get the idea. When you introduce a little gray area into the world of make-believe, your kids will have to come to grips with questions of right and wrong.

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome idea. I think I am going to implement this idea into my next game. Sure a bunch of gold would be great for my group of level one characters but once they find out the gold belonged to the nearby village treasury.... well this WILL be fun. I might even throw in that the person who is in charge of the villages funds is corrupt and has over taxed the citizens. I'd like to say I know what my kids will do but it will be interesting to see how they work it out. Thanks for this hook.