Absolution

As I’ve stated before, I play Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve also noted the fact that it’s a lot of fun, very creative, yadda yadda yadda.

Now that I have proof I felt that I should post it in order to prove to you, skeptic, that there are in fact real world benefits in joining a group.

I used to love to write. These days I never seem to make time for it. I’m not particularly good at it and rarely have cause to stretch my literary muscle.
Due to the fact that our group is currently starting a new campaign, I had the opportunity to attempt to write a backstory for my character. These are helpful as they give your character context in the world, provide the DM with hooks to hang plot lines off of and give your character a voice should your group enjoy the actual role playing side of the hobby.

The new campaign is based in Eberron, a campaign setting by the producers of D&D, Wizards of the Coast.
One of the races present in this setting is the Warforged, a race of sentient automatons which were produced as combatants in a great war in Eberron’s past. After the war, they were left to find a place for themselves in a world which only really saw them as killing machines.

This idea was taken by Bice, the DM of our group and shifted slightly to suit a custom campaign setting he’s been working on called Sarraneau. This setting focuses heavily on naval combat, something which is lacking in the base 4th Edition D&D rules.

In Sarraneau, Eberron’s Warforged are called Skyborn. Here is a quote from the campaign setting notes:

The Skyborn
Probably the strangest legacy of the Lekassis is the city of Kascunakas on the southern island of Kascun. Built of the glyph carved red clay typical of Lekassis enchantments, Kascunakas is a walled city capable of holding a population of almost forty thousand. For centuries only the bravest explorers would explore the empty streets of Kascunakas despite its open gates and the temptation of ancient treasures. Blacksmith forges with anvils and swords of clay sat alongside trade houses filled with terracotta scales and ledgers. It was not this that kept away so many, nor even the occasional mysterious disappearance. It was the armatures, humanoid figures that populated the town. Made from various metals, stone and organic materials, the armatures were statues in a myriad of different daily poses. Some would appear to be holding a discussion in the street, or frozen in the act of pulling bread from an oven, or guarding a public building. Although wild tales of the city coming to life abounded, the same armatures were always found in the same places and nothing about the city ever changed.

Then, just over a century ago, came the star storms. On clear nights, the night air would become dead still and thousands of lights would fall, pure white and seemingly the size of a man’s fist, some delicately like snow, some slamming into the earth like stones, but in either case blinking out without effect as soon as they touched the ground. After each star storm the heavens would be darker and by the end of the first year of the storms fewer than one in twenty of the once innumerable stars remained. The stars fell only on nine of the islands, those in the south, and among them was Kascun. Famed explorer Hispen the Frail was in Kascunakas on the night of the first star storm and wrote the following of the experience:
“We stood transfixed as the lights began to fall, unsure whether to embrace them in wonder or recoil in fear, deciding in the end to take shelter in a nearby house. Only then did we notice what was happening in the streets. When the lights reached the rooftops of the city they began to jitter and dance, always towards one of the frozen armatures. A light would move towards the closest armature in fits and starts and hover briefly about it before being drawn into the mouth as if inhaled. The reaction was always the same: the armature would suddenly move as though unfrozen, performing whatever task its pose suggested, for a few moments before crashing to the ground and clutching at its stomach. When the storm passed, those armatures so touched stood an began to walk around in apparent confusion. It was then that we left Kascunakas in all haste, lest these sky born monsters bears us ill will.”
There is nothing in the descriptions and reactions of people and animals touched by the falling stars to suggest any consciousness was contained within, which has led many scholars to suggest that the Lekassis knew of the star storms and built Kascunakas to trap the power of the falling lights, although none pretend to know the reason.
Since that first year, the star storms have returned twice, separated by thirty seven years of nothing each time.

From these notes, I started writing my character’s background. It was one of those times when you wake up in the middle of the night struck with inspiration to write. For those of you that know me well, this is a rare occurrence. If I’m not sleeping I’m probably at work, spending time with Amy or gaming. Writing doesn’t usually feature heavily in my calendar.

The following is the background that I wrote in the form of journal entries by Dyad, a Skyborn Ranger. If it weren’t for D&D, I don’t know whether I would have ever bothered to write again. I’m actually considering continuing these Journal entries as a campaign history of sorts, from Dyad’s perspective.
I hope you enjoy, and if you do perhaps more will follow.

[Early journal entry]

Waking was, enlightening.

“To awaken from slumber without prior memory would be frightening.” That’s what they said.
“How did you know who you were? What to do next?”
“It’s as though you fell asleep at your post.”

To consider the state that Bleeders call “slumber”, or “sleep” is the very definition of pointlessness. It is not a state that we have had any experience with. Yes, we were inanimate for a long time before the light once again shone in our eyes, but I would not call it “slumber”. Slumber requires the subject to have, at some stage been awake in order to “fall asleep”.

No, as far as we know we were made this way. Who made us, or why, is unknown. And irrelevant.
What matters now is our purpose. We must find our purpose.
What else is there? Simple existence? Banal occupation? Assumed subservience?

No.

We must find our purpose.

Some of us agree, some do not. It seems, from my perspective, that there are two ‘types’ of Skyborn. Those of us who wish to find our purpose in order to fulfil it, and those who believe that we were constructed by Bleeders and should therefore exhaust lifespans in their service. Lifespans, in our case, tend to be an interesting unit of measurement.

We go through many a master. They come and go as often as the seasons, it seems.
Not a one of us has died. Well, naturally at least. We just… continue. We endure. We remain.

Bleeders have the luxury of limited time. It gives a sense of urgency to their quest for meaning and purpose. They have a deadline to meet, one that will come without extension. Whether or not you find and fulfil your purpose in that time is up to you. Most do, although I expect that is a result of low expectations, as opposed to any real achievement.

Because we simply continue, our quest for purpose lacks urgency.

I choose to serve, as it benefits me and my ultimate goal. I took up my swords because they were all I had when I awoke. I found that I was quite adept at using them to end the aforementioned Bleeders’ lifespans where necessary. There are many who will pay for such a service, my first master, for one. It seemed that prior to my awakening, I was to stand guard at the dock of Kascunakas. My then lightless eyes designed to cast their gaze across the waves for eternity. When I awoke my first thought was one of curiosity. I felt the need to absorb as much as I could of my surroundings. I wandered the mostly lifeless city attempting to learn anything and everything I could about my surroundings. But, I always returned my post. It felt, right. I began there, perhaps the spot in which we awaken holds some importance?

Eventually they came, the Bleeders. They came with their curiosity and their greed. I took service with the captain of one of the trading ships that would come to Kascunakas in order to ply their mostly useless wares. He soon put me to work once the obvious fear I instilled in him subsided.
Little did I know that using the blades on my back to end the lives of his competitors was a crime. It is difficult to know the difference between right and wrong when you awaken with a functioning mind, but without a moral compass.

Upon my bloodstained return, my master looked pleased and somewhat shocked. He handed me a bag of coins and suggested that I continue in his service. After all, he could now afford to pay handsomely for my apparant skills. I stood guard by his berth until the day he died. On his deathbed, my master told me to find another, someone who would appreciate my skills the same way that he did.

I felt that this kind of emotional display was unnecessary, but it seemed to be important to him. His parting gift was my name.
I was to be Dyad, for my twin swords – an affectation that I have decided to maintain as having a name confers a societal uniqueness that is difficult to come by for my kind.

I have worked for a number of masters since then in order to aquire gold. A bankroll is what I need if I am to take the next step toward finding purpose.
I need to purchase a ship, a necessity brought on by the simple fact of our island home. Finding passage on a ship owned by a Bleeder has proven impossible – Skyborn are still widely feared.
If I am to expand my horizons, I need to explore. Perhaps the answer to our purpose lies somewhere in this very chain of islands? I have exhausted my options in Kascunakas.
I have decided that it would be prudent to travel with others, as a lone Skyborn seems to attract trouble.
Finding the right companions has proven to be a time consuming endevour.

I do not really mind. Though gold is lacking, time is something I have in abundance.

-Dyad.

Dichotomy

Or, my thoughts on Fable II.
NB: This post will contain horrendous **spoilers**. Do not read if you do don’t wish to know the ins and outs of Fable II’s plot.

For those of you who played the first Fable, Fable II will feel reassuringly familiar in the opening couple of hours. You’ll be unsurprised to note that the game starts during the early years of the protagonist’s life and time-skips its way through to mid-life. The two games are very similar in their intentions, though I found the sequel to be disappointingly shorter than the original. A pill which was only made more bitter by the announcement of and trailer for Fable III, less than a year since the release of Fable II.

Despite the introduction, I don’t plan to review the game here. I will be giving my thoughts on the Good vs. Evil mechanic made popular by the original Fable.
The Fable Hype Machine is a formidable one. With Peter Molyneux in the cockpit, this mecha-monstrosity tramples its way across the various gaming news blogs, firing Promulgation Lasers and Ballyhoo Bombs at the unsuspecting public. The big hitter, the machine’s WMD if you will, is the Morality Missile.

Petey-M loves their morality system. The player is able to take actions which can have a positive or negative effect on their morality. These come in the form of player-driven actions, and quest-based choices. For example, if a good player wished to increase their moral standing with the public, they could play the lute in the town square for a crowd, have a bard sing songs disseminating tales of their good deeds, purchase a property and lower the rent or give a child an autograph.
On the other hand, if an evil character wished to further debase themselves, they could kill (any number of) villagers, draw a weapon in town, thrust their crotch at unsuspecting passers-by, increase rental prices or sacrifice anyone at a dark altar.

The consequences of these choices will have effect in the world of Albion in the form of differing quest outcomes, NPC reactions and the protagonist’s physical appearance. Good players seem to look perpetually happy, or at worst, pensive. Somewhat reminiscent of a bride or groom on their wedding day who need to smile at all times but stop to relax their mistreated facial muscles when they think no-one is looking. It is even possible for a paragon of good to end up sporting a halo above their heads.
Evil characters, conversely, look increasingly angry as the game progresses and will actually grow clich├ęd devil horns as they perform unspeakable acts.

What I want to know is, why would a character who has killed hundreds of innocent civilians, made uncountable human sacrifices and has a visage including devil horns, deep red glowing runic symbols and the faint haze of black smoke emanating from their person want to help Mrs. Spade by rescuing her two sons who seem to have the nasty habit of accidentally summoning horrible creatures which then terrorise the surrounding hamlets [Deep breath]?! Wouldn’t you be quite enamored with the idea of terrorising hamlets? Haven’t you in fact been doing just that yourself?
Also, why would you care about what Lucien was up to? He’s got a Spire? Meh. He’s going to do, something, with it? Meh. He killed your sister when you were a kid? Well, the hundreds of murders that you’ve committed since kind of put that in perspective, don’t they? You seem perfectly happy to annoy villagers and make a pain in the arse of yourself wherever possible. Revenge seems both below you (murders) and above you (being that you’re pretty much just a d-bag).

Also, since when was being a d-bag worthy of evil devil horns? Just because I raised the rent in a few places I own, stole some stuff from houses and wouldn’t give Timmy an autograph, doesn’t mean that I’m evil. It just means that I’m an arsehole.

This is my problem with morality systems in games. Rarely do they actually model ethical or moral reasoning, rather they tend to require the player to choose between entirely virtuous acts, or being a prick.
I would think that our wonderful and entirely irreproachable OFLC would have something to do with this – I was surprised that what was, in essence, human sacrifice made it into Fable II. I felt a little uncomfortable playing my evil character, but only a little. The vast majority of the things that I did to earn my evil countenance simply required me to act like a prick.
I’m pretty sure that acting like a prick doesn’t make someone evil.
It just makes them a prick.