August 16, 1999: The article examines how neighbors of murderers and other criminals are very likely to claim that they didn't notice anything strange about the people living next to them, and offers several possible explanations for this behavior.
Game and Story Use
- Keep this behavior in mind when the PCs are on the trail of criminals. In fact, make the claims of the neighbors ridiculously out of step with the true behavior of the criminal to confuse the PCs.
- Likewise, when characterising villains, don't feel the need to make them egregiously evil - when they are not busy murdering people, they may well be perfectly friendly.
- Also consider the roles of chained dog syndrome - especially for "the quiet ones" and, for more supernatural campaigns bland rationalisation on the part of the neighbours.
- More generally, the ability to not fall out with your neighbours is normally highly adaptive behaviour - something easily exploited by social parasites such as high functioning psychopaths, confidence tricksters and authoritarian politicians, but generally the sort of thing that stops any human social structure breaking down into constant bickering. This mechanism allows us to overlook and rationalise faults which might otherwise lead to conflict. People who can't do this tend to be the ones written off as "odd", "loners", "troublemakers" and "sociopaths" … and this may also make some of them prone to offending behaviour.
- Of course, something that caused this mechanism to break down…
- Alternatively, there really is nothing wrong with the neighbours - they have been misidentified or blackwashed and the PCs are at risk of killing innocent people.
- Conspiracy theories aside, it's not uncommon for police units to descend en masse on a mistaken target and occasionally murder them before they realise their mistake - or simply because the target has the temerity to resist when armed men break into his house at night.