by Catriona Mills

Do You Ever Wonder . . .

Posted 24 November 2009 in by Catriona

If maybe you’re the bad guy?

I don’t mean in a morally relativistic way. I mean literally the villain.

Except by “literally,” I mean “in Dungeons and Dragons.” (Which reminds me of the time this semester when a clever student asked me, “When you say ‘inevitably,’ do you mean inevitably?” and I had to admit that, no, in fact, I didn’t.)

I’ve been worrying about this a little lately. Yes, Dungeons and Dragons exists entirely on paper and in our dice (and minds), and, yes, the people we kill are actually plastic figurines an inch high, but, still, I worry.

Is this because I’m a second-generation lapsed Catholic, so feeling guilty about things is essentially my superpower? (I mentioned to my brother once that I felt guilty about something, and he said, “Oh, well: that’s life.” And I said, “No, kidder, it’s just us.”)

Or am I actually a bloodthirsty villain, who, should I live past level 4—which, at this stage of the campaign, is not looking likely—will soon be feared across the land as a sword-wielding psychopath?

(Note to self: stop finding that image seductive. Stop it!)

I’d like to say that this vague sense of guilt arose around about the time that we got annoyed with that invisible magician who caused us psychic injuries, hired a cart (and a pony named Bill), went back to his lair, nicked all his furniture, and got our rogue’s uncle (clearly, a different kind of rogue) to sell it for us down the pub.

But I think it started before that.

I remember I spent much of my first level wandering around with freshly severed kobold ears (only one previous owner!) tucked into my coin purse. Sure, we were paid a bounty for them, but still . . .

Then there was the time we let those two goblins go, because they were scared out of their minds, only to have them cut down in cold blood by the psychotic ghost who was our reluctant ally.

Or the time we came across those kobolds who were locked behind a door and, when they found out who we were, started shouting, “Don’t hurt the women and children!”

Or the time we snuck into the room of a man who had just paid for our food and lodging, and messed his stuff up while looking for evidence that he was a villain. He was a villain, of course, but there wasn’t any evidence of that in his room.

Or all those times we’ve let our rogue knock our captives around a little while questioning them. (Not that I’m willing to try and stop her.)

Or the time our wizard set our own paladin on fire, knocking him unconscious, in order to take out some enemies. (Actually, just quietly? That was pretty awesome. And the paladin has amnesia: he won’t remember it ever happened.)

Or—and this is the really bad one—the time we questioned a terrified hostage until a pre-set spell caused him to start bleeding out of his ears, whereupon we decided to put him out of his misery. By cutting his throat. Which, turns out, isn’t that quick a death. So we stood around saying to each other, “Well, this is taking longer than anticipated,” until we couldn’t stand it any more and had our paladin break his neck.

After cutting his throat.

After making his brain bleed out his ears.

Oh, yes: we’re the bad guys, aren’t we? You’d never guess that we are all aligned Lawful Good.

Share your thoughts [10]

1

Tim wrote at Nov 25, 07:56 AM

For one thing, you aren’t all aligned Lawful Good; some of you are just Good.

Also note that the ghost’s killing of the goblins wasn’t your fault. And I’m happy to retcon the double execution of the hobgoblin to a single method.

But there is a general tendency among RPG characters to act in ways that don’t always match well with modern ideals of heroism. Another common observation is that their behaviour does match a bit better with more traditional ideals of heroism as killing people and taking their stuff.

I might also suggest (to twist the knife a little) that having the rogue knock captives around might fall under ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.

2

Catriona wrote at Nov 25, 11:28 AM

I don’t think you should ret-conn the hobgoblin’s death. I think we need to own up to that. That was . . . really quite horrible.

The rest I can accept. Maybe we’re not so bad, after all.

But I’m not stopping the rogue. She’s scary!

3

Tim wrote at Nov 26, 02:46 AM

Another one: a nice, helpful chap offered to give you directions to the Seven-Pillared Hall, but you threatened him, said ‘You’re coming with us’, and took away his weapons.

4

Catriona wrote at Nov 26, 02:54 AM

Oh, but in my own defense, I was never very happy about threatening him! And we’ve sort of warmed to him, now, haven’t we? Actually, how much use was he during the last battle? (Which Faral doesn’t remember—I guess she took a knock to the head?)

5

Tim wrote at Nov 26, 09:23 AM

Oh. Nick didn’t tell you about Faral? Oh dear.

6

Nick wrote at Nov 26, 12:01 PM

Faral took a few hits but carved up her foes. Catriona has nothing to worry about on that score!

7

Tim wrote at Nov 26, 01:08 PM

I thought I’d give it a try. ;)

8

Catriona wrote at Nov 26, 01:10 PM

You felt the urge to try and convince me I was dead . . . on my birthday?

For shame, Tim. For shame!

;)

9

Tim wrote at Nov 26, 02:08 PM

But doesn’t the possibility of losing something make you appreciate that thing more? That was my present to you on your special day. :)

10

Catriona wrote at Nov 26, 09:29 PM

Oh, touché!

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