Thursday, October 1, 2009

Realism in Dungeons and Dragons

On Dungeons + Dragons websites there are a lot of ideas about how to make the game "more realistic." Some of these discussions are quite comical, such as claims that "it's unrealistic that special power X works against monster Y" when at least one (or in some cases both) of X and Y doesn't even exist in the real world, so it makes no sense to ask whether it is being represented "realistically." But today I played a game of Dungeons and Dragons that was quite realistic - maybe a little too realistic.

The setup was as follows. Our party was a group of missionaries for the deity Sarenrae, who preaches "compassion and peace" as her highest virtues. Our objective was to go into a tribe of gnolls (a type of monster), convert them all to Sarenrae's faith, and kill anyone who refused to convert. Helping us were some gnolls from a rival tribe that had a "blood feud" with the tribe we were trying to convert. During the discussion the DM (Dungeon Master) told us about a "serpent king" or something that all the gnolls were ruled by. When a player asked how the two tribes could fighting each other if they were both under the "serpent king," the DM said that "the Iranians and the Iraqis both worship Allah, but they hate each other."Another thing that came up during this talk was Sarenrae's "holy book" that apparently included a section on "who you're allowed to kill." For example you are allowed to kill someone who refuses to convert, but you have to give them a chance to convert first.

Anyway, we went off to our destination and we had to find Flynn, a "gnoll boss" that was the leader of the town. First we went to a goblin who could tell us where Flynn was. The goblin agreed to tell us where Flynn was only if we promised to kill Flynn. Our party's paladin (a paladin is a holy warrior who must follow a strict code of honor or he loses his special powers and becomes a "fighter without bonus feats") refused to promise to kill Flynn (because we have to give him a chance to convert first, and if he converts we aren't allowed to kill him.) Eventually we just went off and searched on our own and eventually found Flynn's lair. There were four gnoll guards that were guarding the stairs up to the lair. We tried to convert them but they at first refused. Then the paladin offered to give them gold to leave their posts, so we could go to the boss (after all the paladin was looking for the non-violent solution). However they agreed only under the condition that we agreed to kill Flynn (because if Flynn found out the guards had left their posts, he would kill them for their disobedience.) For reasons already discussed our paladin couldn't make that promise. The negotiations continued, and after he doubled the gold offer we were close to a deal, but another of our party members made a preemptive strike and attacked the gnoll guards. He thought he was doing our gnoll allies a favor by killing their mortal enemies, but our gnoll allies saw it differently - he saw the "treachery" and feared that we would kill them next, so our gnoll allies turned on us. Also in the chaos, the guards called Flynn to come down and help them in the fight. So we ended up fighting the gnoll guards, our former allies, and Flynn, all at the same time. When explaining why our gnoll allies had turned on us, the DM explained: "The Sunnis and Shiites hate each other, but when the infidels come, they turn on them."

Fortunately for us, all the gnolls were so weak that they were easily dispatched. Maybe it was for the best that that part of the game didn't turn out too realistic.


Nanette Goodman said...

Frighteningly realistic. Good thing the gnolls were weak enough for you to defeat. I guess your intelligence was reliable.

Dan Mont said...

Glad the gnolls didn't have a secret weapons of mass destruction development program.