Adding a bit of gray to those black villains (a la Walking Dead)

So I finished watching the latest Walking Dead episode. What I don’t quite get is the switch in Rick’s head that has completely flipped from ‘try to be decent’ to ‘eliminate any potential threat’ in such a short time. I expect they’ve been on the run for weeks, but it seems a tad quick for me.

I always chuckled at the fans of the show that railed against Shane so much for the first two seasons. Mostly because if you follow the comics, Rick has gone that route of doing anything to keep the group alive (at all costs) a long time ago. Again I wished they milked out the love triangle a tad more. That resolution near the end seemed to slip too quickly back into Shane simply wanting Rick out of the way for me. Oh well.

As the comic goes, I hope that Kirkman adds a few more twists to the recent villain that has reared his head, Negan. I’ve sort have been wondering how they’ve lined up their position in the world and wonder if at the heart of it, they have their own family and loved ones. They’ve simply slipped too far into accepting the ends justify the means. That other communities of people are just that, others. They aren’t their kin. They are outsiders. So it’s completely justified to offer them an ultimatum and follow through with violence if needed.

With some perspective, Rick in the comics has gone quite over the edge from having the moral high ground. After all he’s shot a prisoner he deemed a threat, ran down a member of Woodbury that may have been a traitor (remember that guy claimed some good people needed a place to escape from the Governor), hacked apart a man that threatened his son, tortured and mutilated a group of cannibals (admittedly for these last two I could see executing them, but gleefully tearing them apart is a tad much), and freely admitting to wanting to take over a community by force if necessary.

So enter Negan. Again, Rick’s group sort of forced his hand killing a group of his men. I expect most folks will not stomach anything but the worst fate for the guy. After all recently…


…he was responsible for making things incredibly unpleasant for our favorite, former pizza-delivery guy.


Still I hope Kirkman muddies the water a bit. Negan is not a nice man. No question about it. But it might be he’s taken Machiavellianism to an extreme and if he’s doing these things to protect his loved ones, maybe it should give us pause to consider if such horrible acts are ever justified at all. Who knows where he’ll take it. Likely we’ll end with another truly despicable Governor-type character. Maybe not.

As the show goes, I wish Rick clinged to that moral high ground a tad more. Mind you, while folks might argue putting a machete to the head of a prisoner was justified, locking that other out in the yard was harsh. I just wished he wrestled a bit longer with the demons of doing absolutely anything to protect his people, even if that meant abandoning any shred of humanity left. It may be well something the show explores. Who knows.

As gaming goes, I tend to stick with making my main villains really bad guys. I think for the fantasy theme and my players being heroes, they really enjoy the highs and lows of taking on the main baddie. If all the black hats are gray, it dulls this emotion some.

I’m not completely averse to this concept though. Recently I’ve been doing a Savage Worlds hack of Dark Sun. There is plenty of moral ambiguity to go around in that setting. I am certain that the group will be finding patrons that are literally the lesser (of several) evils. It’s just part of that setting. I likely will tinker with the motivations of some villains in this vein too. Athas is a harsh world and many are likely doing the best they can for the few they care about, and easily justify turning their backs on others.

Likely I won’t over do it too much. Sadly I think there is too much of this in the world today. No need to cram it into a pastime my group does for fun. Sometimes it’s better to keep those white hats and black hats the color they are.


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