The crash at the end of the arena happened again. Right at the end of the Arena, just as I was fighting Whisper. I had a bit of an existential crisis after that. How many times would I repeat the same hour-long section of the game? What would I do if the game simply didn't work past this point? And, more generally, what am I doing here, really?
Luckily, before I could get too deep into finding answers for these questions, I discovered that someone online had the exact same problem as me. The culprit turned out to be the lightning bolt spell. So, I went through the arena a third time, and refrained from using lightning. That time I made it through.
So, I slaughtered Whisper, the harmless young hero who, while perhaps being an annoying rival at times, was nonetheless a familiar face from childhood and honorable as both an ally and an opponent in the arena. It was necessary to get the "special prize" from Jack of Blades, and as a ruthlessly evil bastard, I had no other choice. In becoming the Arena champion, I am walked down the hall of heroes, where champions past have been immortalized in statue form. As I pass a certain statue, I have a flashback - one of those statues is of my mother! I never knew she was the legendary hero, Scarlet Robe.
While I'm remembering all this, Jack of Blades oozes up to me to do the general villain thing where he starts insinuating things more or less at random to try and get in my head, and he tells me that Scarlet Robe was soft-hearted, just like me . . .
Immediately after the cutscene, I went into my character status menu to check my current alignment. It was half a box below neutral. Half a box! Here I was, a man who pitilessly dispatched Twinblade after he was thoroughly defeated, who abandoned a helpless traveler in werewolf (sorry, "balverine") country just to spare himself the slightest bit of risk, who, for love of gold, massacred the traders of Barrow Fields, who betrayed and murdered a childhood friend, just for the vague promise of an unspecified prize.
And I didn't even have one full box worth of negative alignment. I ruthlessly killed everyone who got in my way, and it didn't count as evil, because they got in my way.
Fable's morality system is kind of ridiculous. I think what happened here was that you get positive karma for killing "evil" enemies like Hobbes and Balverines, even if you're doing so, say, in the context of an arena where you degrade human life by participating in decadent bloodsports of money and fame. And that, because I was only killing people if there was some sort of gain for me, or if they posed any kind of obstacle or threat (or if a cutscene suggested it would be evil), my evil deeds were subsequently balanced by the automatic trickle of good karma you get just from doing the main quest.
I'll probably have to go out of my way to be a true "puppy-kicking evil bastard." I'll probably have to start slaughtering townsfolk indiscriminately, perhaps breaking their barrels and looting their cupboards in the process (Fable shares with Fallout 3 the distinction of having more bad karma opportunities in petty theft than in negative quest choices). I can also potentially sacrifice people to a dark god and snack on live baby chicks.
But maybe I won't. It might be kind of interesting to see exactly how low the alignment bar will drop if you do nothing but pursue the main quest in the most dickish way possible. How evil can I be in terms of real-world morality before Fable is willing to call me "evil?"