It’s rare to find big damn heroes in classic Dungeons and Dragons. The entire game is designed around tomb robbers. Occasionally players will take on “altruistic” causes, but this usually involves their being able to keep a percentage of treasure that they find (aka loot). In my limited experience playing classic D+D, my players tended toward chaotic good. More than happy to do good deeds, but generally wanting something for it. When I got to play, I usually played in that same moral vein. Good people, but not generally heroes.
During my 2e days I know that no matter what their character sheets said, my players tended toward neutral evil. On the rare chances I got to play I usually ran either an elven bladesinger or a paladin. I was usually the only good character in the party, and while I was trying to emulate the high fantasy hero that was so often depicted in the art of 2e, both my party and my DM usually failed to support me in this. My fellow players by being NE jerks, and my DMs by not providing any sort of situation in which to be actually heroic. They tended to be subscribers to the school of thought that believed Lawful Good = Lawful Stupid. This is not a great situation for the player of a paladin to find himself.
With the introduction of 3e and d20 Star Wars I began to see more heroic acts, though not too often. Like back in my classic D+D days the general alignment had shifted back toward good, if not lawful. Being able to play Jedi in Star Wars certainly helped with that. There’s just something about the lure of lightsabers that proved impossible to resist.
4e, and it’s lack of emphasis on collecting treasure, seems a much more heroic game, which does cheapen the whole point of heroism in a fantasy rpg. It’s one thing when you’re playing a superhero game, but another when playing D+D.
Is looking for a hero in Dungeons and Dragons a fool's quest? Maybe, but then where else do you find a hero, but on a fool's quest?
This post brought to you by the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Runeslinger of Casting Shadows. The topic is Heroes.