Don't get me wrong about this, I think 4E is a fun game. I'm just looking for a way to look at the whole "kill and loot" concept with a framework that doesn't make me cringe. I have two ideas so far:
You ARE criminals - In a setting where you are members of a criminal organization, murder and betrayal are common. You can only survive by protecting yourself and keeping yourself protected. You can never truly leave this criminal world, and your kill and loot methodologies are considered criminal. This might work best for games where you're mainly facing intelligent races. Maybe Planescape?
Killing Monsters is like Busting Ghosts - Something makes monsters spawn in this world, and it is up to the athletic and adventurous to save us all from them. Each dungeon might be a home built by something alien like:
- the cracked pieces of a meteor swarm, embedding themselves in the earth, generating a weird, malign magical force
- either the video game Okami where the environment and humanity poison each other until the source is removed or the DitV idea where pride leads to all sorts of sins that might just manifest into murderous creatures
Other ideas for a fun setting that resolves the dissonance of heroes that murder and loot?