D&D and Evil DM'ing
Is human nature, by default, evil? If America's Funniest Home Videos (adult link : kids link : baby link) has taught me anything, it's that we love watching other people suffer. It started with arena combat, gladiators hacking away at each other while we ate grape sno-cones. Nowadays, show the world a video of a man getting tagged hard in the nuts by a two year old with a wiffle ball bat and observe the audience erupt into a mad cackle like gleeful imps. This sentiment manifests itself in all aspects of life. For myself, it becomes particularly evident whilst I act as the infallible... Dungeon Master!
In times of yore, as I led my friends through dangerous cities and foreboding dungeons, I always felt an inexplicable urge to kill them off. It was me vs them in an epic battle of wits and luck. I embodied their every hurdle. I was that minotaur that patiently laid in wait with a brutal axe. I was the 10' pit trap that few 1st level characters would climb out of. In my world, if you had less than 5 hit points, you were barely squeeking past the opening tavern scenario involving a shady figure sipping ale in the corner. Average life expectancy was about 2 hours. Consequently, we were always seeking out modules (pre-built adventures) for characters level 1 through 3. Eventually, most players began bringing two characters along with them. It didn't matter. If you made it to level 5+, either you were cheating or I wasn't the DM.
One module that truly captured the essence of this essay was Tomb of Horrors. Here is a module that could have easily swapped the Lich cover art with an image of a DM throwing up twin middle fingers to a table of broken-hearted players. Gary Gygax was clearly having a bad day when he co-wrote this masterpiece of cockery. I can vividly remember devouring this little gem with a fiendish sparkle in my eye, fantasizing in great detail the demise of each party member. It is essentially a cacophony of brutal traps, each more diabolical than the last. The decadent passion that poured through his pen as he crafted this work of art brings a tear to my eye. No one lives through the Tomb of Horrors.
While we're on the topic of D&D, I thought I'd give a quick review of 4th Edition. I heard cautious skepticism prior to its release. I have to say that I love the direction. Wizards of the Coast managed to peel back a lot of the cumbersome rules, leaving a fresh game that is reminiscent of some of the PC based RPGs out there. Don't get me wrong, you still have the pen & paper and you're still rolling dice, two things I wouldn't play without. The books are extremely well written and conveniently organized, something previous versions lacked. It also moves some of the action into 1st level. Since my stalwart adventurers usually remained below level 5, they will particularly enjoy this aspect. In closing, as we all know, D&D was made by devil worshippers and makes kids go on killing sprees with halberds. Hail, Satan.
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