Sunday, August 16, 2020

Revamped "Campfyre"


Dragon - A Flash Fiction

            You never truly understand fear until the dragon wakes. You have experienced a mere inkling of fear in your past. A deal gone sour, surrounded, you fought your way out. Your heart may have raced, and you may have yelled out in seeming terror, but that is not fear. That is but the seed of fear. It blossoms into something more and unfurls its velvet petals to engulf you in a silken embrace. You do not cry when true fear comes to bear. You are silent. Your senses are painfully heightened, and the world slows. This is it. This is the moment when you know the plan has failed. A mistake, the chalice clatters, and suddenly death becomes a difference of degree, not kind.

The dragon’s malevolent eye lazily rolls your way. The iris widens as it perceives the elf trifling through its treasure. It is no stupid beast. It knows it can easily crush you like the fragile thing you are, but still you both freeze. There is a brief, blissful moment of limbo where you hope against hope that the serpent will sink back into its slumber, but deep down you know that you are both beyond any point of return.

The stillness is broken as a small ember of hope ignites within you. Its flames fill your chest. Your fear feeds the ravenous flame, and it erupts into a blazing inferno as the scaled face of sheer doom spurs you into action. The monster’s lips part to reveal broken, stalagmite-like teeth that tower taller than your diminutive frame. Death’s powerful laugh booms off the cavern walls as it rises to its feet. The dragon feels no fear. Fear is all you know.

 Your heart pounds erratically in your chest while every muscle and sinew of your body twists and tenses as you spring to the side to avoid the furnace of flame erupting from the dragon’s maw. Your clothes are charred, and your mind screams in agony as your skin blossoms into blackened roses. You are losing, but still, for some damn reason, hope remains. It burns within you hotter than ever before. You fight.

You dance the line between life and death as long as your legs will support your feeble frame. Your mind is clear as time slows further before your darting eyes. You think that perhaps you shouldn’t have gotten greedy. Your folly is obvious, and you feel foolish. You hate yourself for your stupidity. 

These thoughts quickly fade as the world shifts back to full speed. Sweat stings your eyes, and you try to wipe it away, but you cannot. You power through the pain, and you find the strength to fight harder. Your body burns from the effort of exertion. The exit is visible. You think you can make it. Breath comes in ragged gasps as you propel yourself forward and dive for salvation. You do not make it.

Death’s scythes tear into your flesh and slam you into the unyielding rock with a crack. You are dying. Your heart shudders and hops as your heaving chest struggles for air. The pain numbs you and your eyes lock on the hideous face of death looming before you. You rage and struggle, but your limbs are heavy and unwilling. Your eyes loll listlessly, and the world blurs into unrecognizable blobs. You have a vague sense of movement, but no longer care. Your thoughts come slowly at first, then halt to an agonizing stop as colors fade to gray and then black. The fire within you is quelled. 

You have failed.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Race & Alignment in D&D - The Case for Removing Alignment

There are many hold-overs from older editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Many clunky features and mechanics have fallen by the wayside to rust and wither, and that’s for the best. I can’t say D&D would be the phenomenon it currently is without changes. Sometimes you need to lop off the broken bits and forge something new—that’s exactly what 5e has done. But, as our society shifts and grows more inclusive, changes are a must. One of the longest-lasting hold-overs from classic D&D is alignment. It has gone vastly unchanged since the inception of the game. 

I think it’s time for a change. We are no longer playing stereotypes meant to fill a roll in a war game. I’ll come out and say it—alignment sucks. What does it even mean? Everyone is the hero of their own story, and alignment makes it so every individual must fit into a peg or role that doesn’t quite fit. In addition, alignment is the main focal point for discrimination in D&D. The fact that good & evil is tied to a race is an issue. Doing away with the alignment system would open up the interpretation of the other “evil” races. 

Anyone who has read the Drizzt novels knows that drow aren’t evil beings. Hell, you could put any race in the same environment as they are and come out with the same society. Races aren’t evil. They don’t “lean towards evil” as the PHB states. Situations, society, pressures, and discrimination bring out different goals in people. I hear the complaint that removing these notions and stereotypes will “ruin the lore.” I don’t think so. We can all have our cake and eat it too, so to speak. 

Do away with perceptions of evil. Don’t even mention it. Instead, describe societies. Describe cultures. Tell of the houses of the drow and their desires for greatness in the eye of their goddess. Speak of the orcs and how violence leads to social status. It’s as easy as not placing these labels on societies and people as a whole. While many players may break the molds set in the PHB, just as many fall into the trap of exacerbating racial issues in their game with these labels. 

But what do we do instead? Well, I think a game can play fine without alignment at all. Roleplay takes the place of these figurative training wheels. We already have the toolsets needed to make dynamic characters without it: flaws, ideals, desires, etc. There’s already a spot for all of that on the character sheet.

 If one must hold onto any remnants of alignment, perhaps consider whether your character falls more towards law, neutrality, or chaos. It doesn’t have to be a box you build around your character, rather it can be a flexible membrane that melds elements of the world around them through experiences and hardship. 

Let me know your thoughts on alignment and the changes proposed here. I’m very interested to hear any other ideas and/or solutions.