February 19, 2014

The Weight of a Golden Heart: Why Player Characters Do Good

Look at this picture for a few seconds. What does it say? It says that I've spent hours farming and days questing, by the looks of my hat and mount. I'm an explorer, judging by how lost I appear in the background. As a writer, I could add that my character looks away from the camera, too ashamed to tarnish the lens with the years of story and suffering. I'm hiding my eyepatch, a sign of early injury overcome. Also hidden from sight are the weapons, suggesting humility (or surprise!).

I recently came across two pirates very different, and I'll now take the time to tell our characters' lives in the form of theirs.

Young Jack's Calamity

When I was hurrying through Flotsam to visit One-Eyed Jack the other evening, I was surprised that I hadn't yet picked up Captain Charlie Kennit's quest. Kennit stood on the docks, and I'm normally eager to take on any "dockmaster" quests, knowing their tendencies to include much story. As I looked through the Wiki details on Kennit's demands, I realized that I actually had done this quest before in Beta.

Was it true? Did I really want to break my heart like that again? I gulped and accepted the quest, promising to take a braver perspective on my visit to the Shady Hollow behind the Ruined Lighthouse. I fought my way through easy enemies and arrived at the first non-Kennit NPC - a boy by the name of Young Jack. I approached him only after taking a few hidden chests in the area, knowing what emotions his dialogue would provoke. Pressing 'x', I cringed at reading his lines. Jack had been pirating and his ship had been overthrown by undead pirates which could convert the living with the swipe of a sword. I caught Jack between phases, which was just in time to save him.

During his re-telling of the scare, however, Young Jack parted with some rather chilling information past his own status. While explaining the methods of the undead pirates, he said that the rest of his crew had parted with life as they were defeated. Jack could have been the strongest pirate on the ship, but this did not spare him from a fate worse than death itself if it weren't for us intervening. His crew were likely all pirates. Had we not undergone our own trauma and had gotten rescued by Boochbeard and Gandry, there's potential that one of Jack's crew could have been us.

A Lady Set Adrift

In the middle of the Port Regal storyline, our pirates are to create a situation in which the daughter of a Marleybonian official is taken captive until our pirates can get what they need and save Mustang Sally. It soon becomes obvious that the crew had captured a relentless dramatic.

The Friendly Necromancer proposed a prompt to me the other day; What if Mabel had instead escaped, taking to a life of piracy from then on out? Would she meet a grim demise, or wind up rich and dangerous? While I wrote neither, the fates of others seem to be veering towards the latter. These pirates seem to be all fight and fortune, however...the PCs seem to get many more opportunities.

Pirate with a Heart of Gold

Luckily, we as pirates (or we as the PC pirates) are constantly benefiting from less and less of a pirate's life. We aren't sailing only to plunder - we've got drive and destiny to fulfill, resulting in negotiation with anything that can hear us, in plenty of cases. Besides the scalawags we were born to be, we've ended up being ghosts, revolutionaries, explorers, and even do-good detectives. With that, I'm beginning to discover that there's more separating the PCs from the pirates than practice points and passwords.

KingsIsle has time and time again stated that the PC is not only a pirate, but a pirate with a heart of gold. Let's take a step back and see this go into play, then. This heart of gold is shiny and says to do good, but it also weighs one down enough for them to take steps slower and really look into things.

 A good example of this is Ratbeard's latest promotion. Our pirate is informed that the Old Boz orphanage is to be shut down under command of Ebeneezer Scrooge. As personal thoughts of the pirate are difficult to express, Bonnie Anne practically speaks for us with her statement of sympathy towards the orphans. It's easily explainable when one takes a look into our pirates' past. At an early age, we were orphaned, taken in by the good will of whoever raised us. These orphans get it the hard way - nobody's there to take them in, and for them the PC "feels" something unique to them as pirates: empathy.

Why empathy? It could have been mere sympathy or reaction to gruff old Scrooge, but this once more resembles something that sets our pirates apart. Had Young Jack or Mabel gone through the trauma that our pirates had? No. This gives our PC a stroke of empathy in their intricate portrait.

Is this what will push us through in our journey, or is this what will set us back a pace behind the Armada? Only time will tell. If I were to have written such emotion in, those paying too much attention to their empathetic side would have missed opportunities and remained supporting the Marleybonian orphans or Mooshan farmers...it's the delicate application of saltiness to our pirates that push them on to the next world. While we are war-starters, we are also soldiers for our own causes.

A Change of Heart

With the Armada on our tails, I find our pirates constantly forced to leave the situations that we've created. We've destroyed valleys, left cities in shambles, and turned our backs on needy NPCs in order to save ourselves and get our map put together. Will this tarnish our hearts of gold? Will the constant leaving-behind turn us cold and relentless, or will we still be able to apply empathy in the heat of the chase? Just how heavy can our hearts of gold get? And should we end up changing heart, will we ever be able to find balance once more?

Keep Traveling


  1. I remember Young Jack's quest - it gave me chills. I think it was the most emotionally charged side quest in the game, at least as far as I got.

  2. Idk, I never looked at our pirate as "good". I mean if you think about it, we have done little to actually be considered a hero. We have caused wars, destroyed hundreds of lives, worked really hard to band together a team of the most dangerous masterminds in the world (Gortez, Napoleguin, Meowiarity, Catbeard)and what have we done that wasn't for our own gain? In general I would be more surprised to find any good in us...

  3. Young Jack's quest did gave me the chills on the back. And I think I'm not the only one.
    Destiny, I noticed your posts are making me think twice on how to deal with my quests.
    Now, I kinda feel bad leaving those sheep in Mooshu just like that. I'm wondering, maybe those side quests were important? Maybe they needed help...

  4. Sophia,

    You're right - I don't think I've known many other side quests that made me think like that...now that I think about it, though, I'm remembering the in-Miranda side in which I returned a locket to a grave.


    I do apologize for writing absolutes - while I think our pirate has more "good" in them than others of their kind, we're still no-good scalawags eager for another coin. There's no changing that, but I think the interactions with NPCs and quests - transcending "Let's loot it!" - hint at something different. Maybe not goody-goody different, but different at all.


    Hey! I really appreciate that comment. That's one of my goals when I write; to make people think. From what I've heard, it can sometimes be helping an NPC in need that leads to something much more rewarding than the pride alone. ;)

    To all, thank you for leaving comments! I really appreciate it.


  5. Really thought provoking. I like to think of my Chrissys and heroines with hearts of gold and I cringe each time they are forced to do something unethical to achieve a goal. I do wish there were more choices to say do something not so thieverish and have to take longer to achieve a goal. She may even be surprised occasionally and learn that the right path may just get the job done faster. I just heard El Toro thinking again about the war they started to get his beloved Carolina and even he said he wished that there had been another way. I understand game mechanics will prevent taking such separate paths but, hey, I can wish. :D I know we are pirates but it still bothers me when presented with a quest they just say, "go sink a thus and such ship and get me what I need. What is wrong with just sinking bad guys that are trying to sink us first? I cringe at sinking just for profit. But the game is what it is and Mew has indeed done a masterful job of developing us as virtuous pirates that are on a new path. I love that concept. It's not perfect but it is leaps and bounds in the right direction.
    Please keep it up, your gift continues to shine and it will only grow brighter.

  6. Hi Destiny! The moral tension in our pirates makes them all the more interesting, but I agree with you, that whether our pirates start out as scoundrels or innocent idealists who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, we all have a 'heart of gold'. We do have empathy; we do act mercifully to our enemies (hence, why they are willing to surrender information). The balance is largely good: we've helped establish peace and justice between peoples in Cool Ranch (both alive and dead), we've given aid to ordinary folk in various realms of the spiral, we helped overthrow a cruel and vindictive regime in Monquista - why freeing Napoleguin was necessary. (The Polarians might not think so, however...)

    Kidnapping Mabel and igniting hostilities in Port Regal - oh, we all knew that was wrong, surely, but we thought the balance would be to the good. For Marleybone, we were very wrong. But tears and remorse can not fix it; even acts of heroism are like trying to tape together a Ming vase that you broke. We must live with those consequences, and the knowledge of our guilt and the positive actions of our remorse makes us better people, whether we started as a wanna-be virtuous hero (cest moi!) or a ruffian. Because some of the beauty of Pirate101 is that the story can integrate a variety of personalities that find that they have become... a pirate! :D


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