I’ve seen a disturbing trend in role-playing over recent years, and I think it’s a sign of real-world attitudes creeping into the hobby. Let me explain.
Once upon a time a hero was someone who won despite formidable odds. The hero was the lone knight vanquishing the dragon, the party of hobbits, elves, dwarves and men defeating Sauron, or the team of adventurers taking on the Undead Hordes. We talked about how, despite the odds, our characters won out in the end through great teamwork, cunning magics and, let’s face it, some darned fine dirty tricks.
If you play by the book, those times are over.
In the current version of D&D, any encounter is considered “challenging” if defeating it takes up 25% of your resources. If a party of four adventurers successfully takes out a single Ghoul and loses just 3/4 of their hit points in the process, then it’s a fair fight.
Now to my mind, that’s not heroic. That’s not even particularly fair. It’s four fairly powerful adventurers picking on the little guy. Me, I’m the GM who roots for the bad guys in adventures like this. If it was four ghouls against a Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard – then it would be fair. Put the same four adventurers against eight ghouls and winning, and now you’re into heroic territory.
That’s where the real-world attitude has snuck in, and I don’t like it. We live in a world where forces with technically superior arms, armour and vehicles can enter a country and kill and torture innocent men, women and children then still be called heroes in their own country. We live in a time where to even dare to think this is a sign of cowardice, not valour, is to be accused of being in some way insane or (even worse) unpatriotic.
I don’t like it in the real-world, and I certainly don’t like it in my gaming.
Oh, and what’s with the new advert from Marks & Spencer trying to cash in on the latest Bond movie? Did they have, like, anything, to do with the film at all?! Maybe the Evil Villain bought his Secret Hide-Out from M&S so if he didn’t like it, he could always take it back.