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How black-aligned characters can be heroes and villains

Death magic isn't always bad. But it's not exactly sunshine and rainbows either.
Death magic isn't always bad. But it's not exactly sunshine and rainbows either.

In the last article, I talked about what traits can lead blue into good and evil. Next along the color wheel is - hoo boy - black. So let's move forward. Here's the usual intro:

A Magic character's color alignment doesn't imply a moral judgment on them. Every color of Magic has more or less equal capacity for good and evil - the difference is in what values each of their outlooks emphasize, and what virtues and flaws they each have. Now, since just about every trait can be assigned to one or more colors (that's the point of Magic's color philosophies, after all), saying a color does evil in certain ways and good in others is a gross generalization.

Black has a bad reputation. But the idea that black alignment = evil is a myth. Sure, black's elements of magic (death and darkness) may not be very nice, and it's the color of selfishness and lust for power, but those things can motivate heroes as well as villains. In fact, two of the most popular heroes of Magic blocks - Toshiro and Sorin - have been black-aligned.

Black's good qualities: Black's very selfishness can lead it into virtue, perversely enough. It fiercely looks out for its friends and close companions (even if it doesn't care about those outside its circle). An accumulator of wealth is black even when they use that wealth to become a philanthropist. Black's ambition can lead it to do good acts on a grand scale. It is the most pragmatic of colors - it wants to use practical solutions to help people, rather than any kind of pie-in-the-sky goal. Black won't be satisfied with its deeds until it seems real results on the ground for real-life people, and spurns the idea of serving a nebulous concept rather than the needs of the real world. Black is meritocratic; it doesn't look on people based on personal prejudices, but rather sees them for their skills and actual value as people. Black is most likely to be fair towards its enemies if it respects them. The "lovable scoundrel" Han Solo-type character is black. This quote by Richard Hammond, host of "Top Gear," demonstrates the appeal of black's heroism:

"I like to think that my arrogance, impetuosity, impatience, selfishness and greed are the qualities that make me the lovable chap I am."

Black's evil qualities: There are a lot of these, let's be honest - all seven deadly sins are black, bar sloth, because black usually despises inactivity as useless. Black is very much greedy, envious, and prideful, and when it's wrathful it's not because it's motivated by quickness to anger or acts on angry impulse but because when you make it angry it'll spend a long, long time plotting bloody revenge. Black's "thing" about power will lead it to do just about anything in the pursuit thereof. Black is perfectly willing to sell out its friends (unless - see above - they've really and truly earned its respect). Black will make Faustian bargains without the blink of an eye, as in both uncomfortable alliances and literal contracts with Hell, and there are no forms of magic that it sees as off limits. Necromancy and mass killing are both within a black mage's grasp, and most have no problem using them. As much as Jaime Lannister, from George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire," tries to be good, he says a lot that exemplifies his own, very black-aligned, villainy:

"I think it passing odd that I am loved by one for a kindness I never did, and reviled by so many for my finest act."