Forces for Good and Evil - The Art of World Building
Jul 132020
 
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Organizations for evil or good, like the mob, Avengers, X-men, Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, or Robin Hood and his merry men, help us create a dynamic setting. These groups are less formal than military ones discussed in the next chapter, like knights, and are less structured, being more loosely held together by common beliefs.

Forces for Evil

Most groups arguably don’t think they’re evil, even if the majority of outsiders think otherwise. Even terrorist organizations seemingly believe that they’re doing good things when blowing up civilians, killing children, and worse. Their worldview is at the heart of their machinations and is therefore among the elements to focus on first. If we don’t know what our group wants, how can we decide what they’ll do to get it?

Whether religious, social, or philosophical, evil organizations often justify their actions, and it is their behaviors that make them evil, not their beliefs. Such groups often disagree with that, however, and frequently murder others for having different ideas, which are a threat to them and their goals. This is one justification for killing “innocents,” people who don’t deserve death. Evil groups can declare others are evil and try to destroy them. Some such groups seemingly attract members with little conscience.

Either way, decide what the group’s guiding principles are. Do they want to spread a religion? To topple a kingdom whose way of life offends them? To get revenge in the name of a fallen idol or cause they appreciated? How far are they willing to go to get it? Did the group start off less “evil” but due to circumstances we’ll name, they’ve lost their way and become something more abhorrent? Are they justifying a means to an end, such as killing civilians because they’re in the way?

Forces for Good

An informal group that’s a force for good is unusual in the real world because we have police and organizations like the United Nations to oppose wrongdoers. This is different in fantasy because police forces aren’t as formidable as they are on modern Earth. Evil organizations may also engage in activities outside of a jurisdiction, which is far worse in SF, where it can extend planet-wide and beyond. A formal group that is bound to a sovereign power may lose the right to counter the evil group’s actions outside the power’s jurisdiction. But a force for good can be devoted to doing that very thing.

A good group can have a mix of high-minded and realistic reasons for existing, such as upholding certain virtues and stopping the spread of nefarious regimes that will impact them or loved ones. The ideas can be inspired by religion, philosophical justifications, and a sense of fairness. These people are virtuous but grounded in humility, compassion, and other positive traits that inhibit a slide into being an evil organization dominated by idealism, lack of reality, and selfishness.

We’ll need to decide what guides this group and if it’s written down or just an understanding. The latter gives way to misunderstanding and assumptions, which might result in bylaws being written. Perhaps there’s an oath people repeat at meetings, to remind of what they stand for. These groups will also try to forge a positive relationship with not only those who can help them, like city leaders, but with the public whom they help and protect. Reputation is important and can be aided by charitable actions. Fantasize about what sort of group you’d like to form yourself if you were a powerful wizard or knight with equally strong friends who agreed with your world view. Tired of certain kinds of atrocities in life? What would you do about it?

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