I’ve been getting back into playing a bit of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, a rogue-like, and came across this in the CrawlWiki, on the entry on “Evil”. I think it’s exceedingly well written and it can apply to a lot of games.
Although the good gods in Crawl are portrayed as adhering invariably to moral absolutes, to the extent that even the unwitting use by the player’s character of items tagged ‘evil’ is cause for divine punishment, there is a certain degree of ambiguity in the notion of evil in Stone Soup. Consider that the ordinary practice of an adventurer is to kill and in many cases eat an entire dungeon full of living beings, many of them sapient. In other words, a player can expect, even in low-rune runs, to perform actions constitutive of genocide. Devotion to one of the good gods hardly alters this. It would not be unusual for a favored worshipper of The Shining One, for example, an ostensibly “good” god who frowns on indiscriminate slaughter, to nevertheless kill all, and eat many, of the elves, orcs and nagas in the entire dungeon.
It is unclear what if anything the various societies of dungeon denizens, who, judging by the absence of intra-monster violence within the dungeon, are wholly peaceful, have done to deserve this horrific retribution. On the face of it, the adventurer is simply seeking the Orb. Since “evil”-aligned adventurers act in essentially the same way that “good” ones do in pursuit of this goal, it is unlikely that the finding of this orb is a sufficiently good act in itself to justify the avalanche of butchery.
In the final analysis, it seems that Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup is the story of a peaceful, multi-cultural and multi-species society falling victim to a single adventurer’s avarice and quest for glory. By the time the worshiper of Zin has waded through the rivers of blood he must spill in order to claim the Orb, it is more than a little difficult to distinguish him from a devotee of Makhleb.
Against the background of the game’s overarching narrative, namely murder, cannibalism, genocide and theft on an industrial scale introduced to utopia, the Necromantic spell “Regeneration”, a spell anathematised as “evil” by the “good” gods, hardly compares.