A while ago I talked about game mechanics being a representation of the game world’s physics. Today I’d like to talk about an interesting example.
In the revised edition of Wizards of the Coasts’s D20 Star Wars Role playing game, a character is assumed to be light sight at the beginning of the campaign. When a character performs evil actions he gains dark side points. When those dark side points equal half of the character’s Wisdom score, the character is “tainted”. Thereafter he must make a Wisdom check every time he gets a new dark side point. If he fails that roll, or when his dark side points equal his Wisdom score, he is “dark”. Tainted and dark characters get bonuses to dark side force skills (if you’re not familiar with the system, Force powers are skills) and penalties to light side skills; +2/-4 for tainted, +4/-8 for dark.
Here’s the kicker though: using only the skill list in the core rulebook, most of the force skills are not explicitly light or dark, and thus unaffected by these modifiers. There are four dark side skills and only one light side skill! This means that from a practical/mechanical standpoint having your character turn to the dark side is better. That’s four skills you get bonuses to and only one skill you take a penalty on. That one light side skill? Heal Another… which a dark side character would be unlikely to use any way, right?
This is a really neat mechanical representation of the tempting nature of the the dark side of the Force in the Star Wars universe. The rules of the game are set up to make you want to go dark side, and the only reasons not to are purely intellectual and philosophical (like “my character is supposed to be a good guy) and not at all pragmatic.