I watched "Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics" . There was a quote that struck me as interesting.
" Superheroes are these archetypes that live within us.And then somebody figures out a way
to present them to us......in a way that is compatible with the realities that we live in."
So if superheroes is an archetype living within all of us. Is role-playing game a medium in which we could play out these archetype of ours? Like superheroes, the character we create navigate the own world they live in and overcome each and every obstacles that the GM has installed for them. And each time we overcome it, we cheer because it give us hope.
So if we are playing heroes, what is the definition of heroics? Like the different ages of comics, the definition is never the same. The stick-in-the-mud archetype of the Paladin is a good example. The Paladin's strict moral code is the very definition of the perfect Gentlemen. But come modern age, the inflexible nature would make such a creature ridiculous. Instead, people gravitate to roguish characters whose underhanded acts are for the greater good.
But what is the greater good? What is the borderline between good and evil? How would Green Latern react if he is one again paired with Green Arrow? When do the player characters become no different than the thugs they are fighting?
Many game mechanics have tried to define this. D20 is infamous for many newbie characters choosing Chaotic Neutral because they could do anything and get away with it. Star Wars has a long list of dos and don'ts . But sometimes, I feel ridiculous to give Dark Side points to my player for the things they have done.
Unfortunately, I do not have the answers. How far is too far really depends on the GM. But if the problem arises, the solution may be to embrace it. Like comics, the characters would be treated with fear , not love. Enemies could be more subtle. The GM could even have plot hooks in which the villains set up the player characters to seem to be the evil one.
So next time when you game either as the DM or the player, think about how far your hero is willing to get into the dark side.