Therin and his crew came upon the town suddenly, shocked by the stillness and the silence of the small community even though the sun had only reached its midpoint. The streets were empty. There were no vendors hawking wares, no children underfoot, and hardly a puff of smoke from any of the rooftops. It was wrong.
“Pardon me masters,” came the tiny voice behind the road-worn group. “It’s dangerous to be out now, perhaps seek solace at the inn over yonder?”
They turned to find a ragged creature of a man, thin and gaunt and hunched over, one hand shading his eyes from the bright sunlight.
“You’ve not been to Festoon before, I can tell. Yer not afraid of being hunted, and it’ll get you killed and ate, swords or no. They come raiding during the day, the lizard-men, and they take any they find. High noon is a dangerous time around here. You’d best take refuge at the inn, I’ll show you the way.”
Therin’s head tilted a bit. “Who are these lizard-men you speak of?”
“Dwellers in the old temple, the one shaped like the head of a dragon. The old tales speak of them, the keepers of the beast. Long time between waking and slumber for them, but you’ve arrived during a time when they are awake, and hungry. They come to feed themselves, and the beast, and to add gold and other finery to their hoard.”
Therin looked at the rest of his crew. They were half scared to death, but it was the other half he was concerned with, the half that mattered. They had heard there was gold, and that was reason enough to follow this man. Perhaps others at the inn had information. Maybe Therin and his boys could help these folks, and help themselves as well...to the gold.
The small figure shrugged. “Fools. That place is accursed and wretched. Best you move on, or take refuge with us.” He jerked suddenly and looked around nervously, hunching even further. “Did you hear that? They’ll be coming soon. A crew of em from the south, from the edge of the forest. Follow me and live. I will take you to the inn.”
I’m no hero. It’s true in just about every roleplaying game I’ve ever played, even the ones where I played a superhero. It’s just not my thing. Saving the town, defeating the evil overlord, battling the horrible monster threatening the locals are all things I’ve done, but if helping those around me was the outcome, it was merely coincidental.
I’m an Adventurer. That’s what my characters are, anyway. They seek gold and glory, fame and fortune. Hero-pay sucks! You can’t buy new gear with ‘thank yous’. You can’t learn new spells with congratulations. I'm an Old Grognard, and back when I was commin' up, we learned to play as Adventurers. That's why I love the OSR...for me, it's mostly about the loot!
I wasn’t introduced to D&D (back in 1981) as a game of heroes vs. villains. It seems to me that I hear alot of chatter on the interwebs about playing ‘Heroes’ and even that characters are like ‘SuperHeroes’ because they have amazing powers. Huh? A level 1 fighter is a superhero? Ok...maybe a level 10 fighter is a very capable warrior, a dangerous opponent and highly proficient with the tools of his trade, but I don’t think he’s Superman.
Look, I’m not saying you are playing the game incorrectly. How you want to play the game is your business, and from what I can tell, business is good. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m busy looting dead bodies and stealing this monsters pile of gold and gems after I snuck up behind him and slid my long knife into his heart (yeah I rolled a nat 20). What? I stopped the creature from eating more children from the village up the road? That’s fine I guess, but it’s not why I’m here, and I’m not going back to town with the head of the beast so I can have a party...unless the head is worth a shit-load of gold...is it???
Roleplaying fills a number of needs for people. For me, a part of why I enjoy the game is that it allows me to act, and act out, in ways that aren’t appropriate in regular, normal, everyday-world ways. We don’t all go shoot up local drug dealers who happen to have a pile of cash in the basement because it would solve some problems in our lives. Would I be a hero if I did? If I rid the neighborhood of the big, bad drug dealer who turned a nice, quiet city block into a gangland of drugs and danger would I be a hero? Maybe. But that’s not going to happen because I’m a regular guy, with a regular life, and I enjoy my health and well-being. My daily needs are met, I have the resources I need to live in moderate comfort, and risking my life in crazy situations is not who I am or what I do. In the example above, Therin has made it his work. His JOB. He finds out where the loot is, and if some bad things are keeping it for themselves, he kills them and takes it for himself (making sure to give the boys a solid and reasonable share)
I remember playing in my first game. Once I overcame my general nervousness and got comfortable playing, we were in a few combat situations. I loved swinging my ‘sword’ and killing those orcs in Keep on the Borderlands, and when we finally beat the chieftain and took his treasure, I was elated. I wasn’t getting all deep and existential about it. I mean, what had I done? I killed a bunch of ‘bad orcs’ and I took their loot, right? Nothing wrong with that. Did it help anyone , real or NPC? No clue. I didn’t care. My character's pockets were flush, I had a new weapon and fresh armor, and I was ready to kill my next bunch of ‘bad guys’ and take their stuff too!
Am I a bad person for not wanting to play differently? Maybe I should treat each character as a ‘helper’, a guy who seeks out NPCs with problems they can’t fix themselves, and I should help them. I should try and free slaves when I encounter them in a strange, make-believe city in a magical far-away land. I might try and fight for the weak or the oppressed. Perhaps righting wrongs is what D&D is all about, and I missed the point entirely. Is that possible?
Check out my new uber-selfish OSR class below...and click to download