by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Gaming”

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.

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