Why Doesn't Palladium Like Neutral Characters?

In pretty much every Palladium "base" product I own (meaning the core rulebook to one of their many lines), you receive something like the following:

There is no such thing as an absolute or true neutral alignment. As absolute, true neutral character could not make a decision, fight crime, hurt others, go adventuring, or take any action of any kind without leaning toward good, evil, or self-gratification. It is humanly impossible, and is therefore eliminated in the context of the game.

I realize some of the philosophers out there may disagree with this, but that's a topic for philosophical debate and not a factor of this game. Sorry, no neutrals. This is one of the very few definitive, unbending rules of this game.

(This wording taken from Heroes Unlimited, Second Edition, by Palladium books via Kevin Siembieda and others; though I think this is the same wording as all the others)

First off, kiss my ass on the "unbending" rule bit. There is NEVER an unbending rule to any game. If you want to alter the basic moves of chess, more power to you. If I want white to go first in Go, no one will stop me. Sure, it might not float in a tournament, but how many games does one really play in tournament compared to non-tournament games? This goes doubly so with RPGs. Its a game about characters and having fun, and if one group wants neutral characters, will, Kevin Siembieda doesn't have the time, energy or probably desire to stop them.

Being that its meaningless to declare it an unbending rule, why declare it as such? I mean, did a druid one time mock Kevin in a free-for-all?

My basic answer is that I do not know. Honestly, I see so little point in neutral characters that I never play them, and generally steer players away from them. Not because I do not think they do not exist and cannot exist, but because there tends to be so little meat with them. They become an excuse more than anything else.

And frankly, I see very little reason to ever play with an alignment system in most RPGs. A series of demeanors works much better, or a set of cause-and-effects for your character. But if Palladium is an alignment based, system, then so be it.

My real problem with the statement above, though, is that Siembieda takes such a narrow and limited view of the neutral alignment. He goes in length discussing how there is no Neutral action. But we are not talking about actions, here, we are talking about alignments of characters that are going to make hundreds of choices in their "lifetime". Sometimes good guys do things that are ultimately evil and sometimes evil guys do good things. Alignment is a set of rules you allow to guide yourself, not an absolute descriptor of every single one of your actions. The Dungeons and Dragons version of Neutral, for instance, entails a person who thinks that both good and evil have a place. In some versions, this means they do what is best at a time (the selfish alignments of Palladium games) and at others this is more complex, meaning they go out of their way to preserve a balance.

What about someone who is not self-serving (say they are the followers of a diety) but who believes that one should allow evil and good actions at different times? How does this fit into the Palladium system? Well, it doesn't. Not really. If you go by Palladium archetypes, you cannot allow such a character to exist. Because, as I pointed out before, Kevin Siembieda does not allow a difference between Neutral actions and a person who does not choose to aid either the side of good or evil. Neither, then, does it seem that he allows a good character to murder in a fit of anger, or an evil character to save someone without compensation. What this ultimately means is that most role-players like me are saddled with Selfish characters just so they do not feel cheated and overly contained.

Or, well, I just don't play with alignment in my Palladium games, not real specific alignment. That normally develops well in role-play anyhow.

I get a whiff of the old school fundamentalist style Fantasy, here. Where beings either fought for good or were a part of evil, unless they were just scraping by. It has more to do with how you align cosmologically, and not how you align practically. It must have stuck early on (my earliest product is the revised edition of the Palladium Fantasy RPG. where it fits more than any of the "modern day" campaigns).

To sum it up, I'll play with neutral characters if I want to, but I don't want to, and I think definitions need to be better checked. The only reason I even mention this, of course, is the fact that it shows up in a literal dozen or more Palladium products. It just seems to be a little extreme to go to such lengths to make a point about whether or not someone is aligned to good or evil or just themselves.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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