I’ve written and spoken on the podcast a bit about the angst I’ve experienced with violence in the D&D game, and that finally came to a head last Saturday when I finally decided that something had to give. As it turns out, that something was my own angst.
The party was exploring an area of our home island we hadn’t been to before, and we came across an ancient, abandoned mine. Some cursory exploration by the party rogue revealed a bunch of mined-out areas and the remnants of some good veins of iron – it looked hopeful that this could be a good source of iron in the future, provided the colony was willing to put in the elbow grease. Importantly, this also meant things like saw blades and nails, which meant houses made out of actual planks rather than the more primitive mud huts the colony is currently residing in. And that’s when the rogue spotted the troll.
Trolls are really nasty, vicious creatures in D&D; these aren’t the lumbering stone beasts you often see guarding bridges and rolling rocks around in some fantasy settings – they’re fearsome apex predators full of claws and teeth that enjoy ripping their opponents apart and can’t be permanently harmed without fire or acid. They are, however, sapient, if both stupid and evil. That combination threatened to be the Auntie Bloat angst all over again… …and in a moment of clarity I decided not to go there.
The reasons for that were several. First, I’ve been playing Lambert a little against the point of D&D; on a very basic level, D&D is about combat – the monster manual is full of big, nasty creatures that want to murder you and have you as a light snack (hopefully, but not always, in that order) and pretending otherwise is a bit futile and was starting to flirt with being pompous on my part. Second, and related, I got the impression that Lambert’s reluctance about violence was negatively affecting the other players’ enjoyment of the game, so I definitely didn’t want to push that any further than it had already gone. And there was also the final but my no means irrelevant meta level of occasionally needing to remind myself that if one of my PCs does something I wouldn’t do, that doesn’t make me a hypocrite because the PC is a fictional character. My PCs do not all have to share my own moral compass exactly, and it is indeed fine for me to make a PC who is more comfortable with violence than I myself am, especially because I don’t seem to have this issue in video games at all.
Fortunately, Grant also didn’t make the decision to pull out the weapons and wade in a particularly difficult or morally-dubious one. We found bones of other humanoids and some kenku beaks in a trash pile elsewhere in the troll lair and there was also the in-world consideration that if the troll found the colony, particularly at night and especially now that the three PCs live a ways outside of town, that could turn into a grisly horror movie scenario pretty quickly. A natural predator like the Wyvern we’re also likely to have to deal with might snatch the occasional colonist because it was hungry if it started ranging that far south, but trolls are chaotic evil, which means a sadistic slaughter for the sheer malicious fun of it is not even remotely out of the question.
The fight was an entertaining one and a handy victory for the party, and that was that. One less evil monster in the world, and some potential resources one step closer to being in the hands of the colonists.
It’s useful and educational to allow myself to get up in my own head about things on occasion, but there definitely also comes a time to stop staring at my own navel and just roll initiative already.