Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Role-Playing Torture


Category: General

In younger days, many people I knew liked to play role-playing games. No, not the marital aid kind. Ok, so they liked those too, but I'm talking about games like Dungeons and Dragons™, Star Frontiers™, and Top Secret™. Because of my creativity and ability to maintain entire worlds in my head, they always made me be the game's referee, the Dungeon Master (DM). This put me in the position to be extremely cruel.

Many of the players had played with other DMs who let them get away with all sorts of things. There were lots of easily killed monsters, tons of magical treasure, and all the things necessary for the characters to gain lots of levels. The result was that you had very experienced characters but very inexperienced players. These players always wanted to use their high level, very powerful characters in my games. I would ask if they were sure and, when they said yes, I smiled and agreed to the character.

Here is a transcript, as far as I can remember, of one such incident. The character was a powerful wizard. His mission is to reach an ancient tower where, if someone can read the incantation inscribed on the roof that person would gain immense power. To stop him, there is an army of about thirty thousand soldiers. Most of them are closing behind him.

LB: Ok, you crest the hill and you can see the tower. It's about three miles away. You can also see about ten thousand soldiers between you and the tower.

PLAYER: Can I reach the tower before they get to it?

LB: Probably not. If you look closely, it looks like they have siege engines and are trying to take the tower down before you can get to it. They really don't want you to gain that power.

PLAYER: Well, I'll see about that. How close are the soldiers to me? Do I have time to cast a spell?

LB: What sort of spell are you going to cast?

PLAYER: It's So-and-so's Total Desolation. It will destroy everything for about ten miles. That should take care of the army.

LB: Do you have the spell components? [NOTE FOR NON-PLAYERS: To make the games more difficult to play, spells need special components that are used up in casting the spell. The more powerful the spell, the harder it is to get the spell components.]

PLAYER: Yea, I made sure to have plenty of that.

LB: Ok, go ahead and cast your spell. Roll a d20. [NOTE FOR NON-PLAYERS: A d20 is a twenty-sided die often used to determine success or failure in such games.]

PLAYER: I rolled a natural twenty. The spell definitely worked. I rock!

LB: You sure do. (I roll a few dice for a good show. It makes it look like I'm following some formula.) Radiating out from you for ten miles in all directions, there is nothing but ash, dust, and the occasional bit of rock sticking up. The army is wiped out.

PLAYER: That'll teach them to mess with me. I'm going to keep going to the tower.

LB: Ok, in the distance, through the blowing ash, you can see some rubble where the tower used to be.

PLAYER: What? What happened to it? There wasn't enough time for the siege engines to take it down.

LB: That's correct. You caused total desolation within a ten-mile radius of your position. The tower was only three miles away. It has been desolated. There is nothing left of it.

PLAYER: Oh man, that sucks. Now what?

LB: I recommend that you get out of the desolation. There's a lot of ash and dust blowing around and it will start to affect your breathing before too long.

PLAYER. OK, I'll teleport back to my castle.

LB: How are you teleporting?

PLAYER: I cast a teleport spell.

LB: What are the spell components for that?

PLAYER: (lists out the needed components.)

LB: Where are you getting the components?

PLAYER: I have them in my pouch.

LB: I think you'll find that all the stuff in your pouches and backpack have become useless as a result of the desolation. You did roll a natural twenty.

PLAYER: I don't have any spell components?

LB: Nor do you have food or water. You might want to notice that your clothes are worn a bit thin too.

PLAYER: You bastard. What am I supposed to do now?

LB: You probably want to start walking. The nearest food and water is at least ten miles away. The dust will start to fill your lungs soon. It may also occur to you that the army that was around you probably has a supply chain and possible reinforcements coming up from behind.

PLAYER: You suck.

Note: the games and terms mentioned are the trademarks of the various owners of the games.

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