Role playing games are a great place for people to explore their emotions and thoughts around the subject of right and wrong. There’s the safety of being able to rob, kill, or perhaps worse, without negative real-life legal, physical, or other consequences. Or conversely, of being able to stop a bully, and to discover dignity or integrity. Either way, the feedback from other players and from the referee creates a kind of microcosm of society, with the real world’s ethics usually entering and informing the game’s imaginary stage.
The situation is a bit different with children though, as their understanding of the real world’s ideas of right and wrong are not as based on personal experience as an adult’s, nor have the norms of their culture necessarily been fully accepted or even understood. It makes perfect sense that children would use the tools available to them through role playing games to question and test these norms.
Most readers (being players) know these things intuitively, and how rpgs encourage critical thinking. All of which I mention because I’ve been slowly realizing how the area of the game that most interests and entertains me these days is precisely in moments of moral ambiguity. Whether I use a complicated device or magic item, an encounter with kobolds, or an eccentric NPC, I’ve found myself (often unconsciously at first) creating situations that highlight the uncertainty of the moral ground the PCs are standing on.
I’m not sure if that makes my game weirder than someone else’s or if I’m just more focused on and fascinated by this type of thing. I’ve been out of the hobby for two decades before taking an interest in it again a couple of years back. Maybe it’s this long absence that’s making me aware of the difference between the games of my youth and my games today - or maybe there isn’t all that much difference. There are the same goblins, kobolds, and wolves - what’s new is a greater awareness of the degrees of moral ambiguity and complexity, and subtler ways of introducing situations that force the players to examine these things. I think that whether I was running Traveller, some kind of Cthulu game, or Boot Hill for that matter, this is where my primary interest would lie.
(update: I should add "...while making sure we're having fun, of course.").
[New Magic Item] Amulet of the Silent
1 hour ago