Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Which The Warlock Mourns the Death of a Plane...

One of the neater things that I'd come across in a while--and still wouldn't have even known about it, if not for the much more tech-savvy DigitalKat--is the premise behind the RPG Blog Carnival, whose archive is hosted at NeverMet Press.  Essentially, it provides a monthly theme for gaming blogs, as well as an opportunity for bloggers to read one anothers' posts and see some new perspectives.  Well, sparky; sign me up! 

The boneyard grows...
This month's theme is "Life and Death in RPGs," which couldn't be more fitting after last night's session.

I'm of two minds in terms of character death in games.  While it can be frustrating, even painful, to see one's character wiped out, that threat of death continually has to exist, in order to provide challenge and consequence for players.  But, simultaneously, a character death must have meaning.  One of the biggest mistakes I've made over the years is allowing my "let the dice fall where they may" attitude superscede the narrative necessity of having main characters.  Really, it's also why my players refuse to get into any car in one of my games...but that's another story.

But in terms of ChaoticFrederick's ongoing Dark Sun game, I've been expecting death.  My character, Actorios, was built to experience and play through a "tragic downfall", as he replicates (in his own, DS-filtered way) the path of Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone.  To be honest, I've expected Actorios to die.  His lust for power, his constant manipulation of rival factions, and the wake of enemies left behind him will inevitably catch up with him at some point.  I've accepted this.  I've even started planning my next character...which I'll divulge a little later.  Needless to say, it's going to capitalize more than a little on Actorios' pathos.

But, what I wasn't ready for was the actuall fall itself.  You see, friends and neighbors, I was able to prepare for the death of Actorios, even though it hasn't come. 

What I haven't been able to prepare for, was the death of his entire homeland.
Cast out into Athas and exiled, in response for crimes against his kind.  Actorios as a character is embittered.  He wants desperately to be the "hero" he was destined to become while Crown Prince, but hates his own race and their shortsightedness.  Mind you, it's actually Actorios being shortsighted...he just is so arrogant that he'd never admit his wrong. 

So, when the opportunity arose to bring water to Athas, in the form of a massive sea, Actorios leapt onto the quest.  But the sacrifices that must be made?  The actual Feywild must die.  Yes.  Not just an individual, a city, or even a nation.  An entire plane must die, to bring water to Athas.  The Land Between the Winds must be defiled, in its entirety, using a series of spellshards created by Andropinis, Sorcerer-King of Balic.

The fall of Theleb Orethia...
As the plan unfolded, I saw Actorios as a willing, excited participant.  A chance to be a true hero?! A chance to redeem himself, and make the Tyr region itself into a new Feywild?! Absolutely!  But, with our last session, all that's changed.

You see, friends and neighbors, our last session completed this arc of our quest.  Our characters traveled to the last location of the Feywild, and defiled it away.  Theleb Orethia--Actorios' home kingdom--is nothing but ash now...because of him. 

This has really represented a turning point for how I've been playing this character.  For the first time, Actorios has begun to wonder "Was the price of power, of heroism, actually worth this price?"  Mind you, it's all moot point now.  All that remains of Theleb Orethia, New Samarthia, and the rest of the Lands Between the Winds now resides as pure arcane energy in the spellshards of Andropinis. 

Was it worth it, Actorios?
I came away from the table last night visibly sad.  Chaotic Frederick actually asked me if I was all right.  I was, of course, primarily because I had done my job too well.  Tragedy is even more beautiful and terrible from the inside-out. 

Death, on this scale, is never just a plot point.  Rather, it has to have emotional resonance, with both the characters and the players.  This should be what happens when Green Lantern fails to save Coast City.  This should be what happens when The Laundry fails in its mission to prevent CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. depth, is realism, and is necessary for truth in storytelling.  And no one--GM, player or character--should immune.


  1. Good Post, and welcome to the Blog Carnival! One minor correction: Nevermet Press graciously host the archives of the Blog Carnival, and the schedule of future events; each month's Carnival is actually hosted and run by one of the participating Blogs. "Life And Death In RPGs" is hosted by Campaign Mastery; it was our responsibility to decide on the topic for our month, to receive the links to each participant's articles, and to collate them at the end of the month. Next month, the subject will be "Game Cartography", and the host will be "A Character For Every Game".

  2. Thanks for the comment, the clarification and the hearty welcome, Mike. I edited my entry to reflect the actual roles involved.


  3. Great post Platinum Warlock. It definitely sounds like having your character face the consequences of his actions may have been more effective than merely having him face his own death.

  4. Much obliged, Michael.

    One of the goals that I had for this character was to experience the "tragic fall" of someone who wanted desperately to be a hero, but constantly wanted to take the easy way out. His pact with an Infernal patron, his tyrannical rule over his people...and now this, by signing his pact over to Andropinis, and destroying his own homeland.

    There are things worse than death, and Actorios is getting to know them very, very well.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. Good going on the character development and moving towards a kick butt ending.

  6. Thankee, DPT!

    It's all about the payoff, in terms of the ending. I'm just hoping that we get through the last of this campaign before ChaoticFrederick has to head off to California!