Monday, February 26, 2024

What Gives them Hope? (Musings in the Hour of the Wolf)


I can't sleep tonight, readers.

Life has handed me a problem where none of the outcomes are good or happy. And one that has made me so frustrated and angry I just don't know how to vent it so that I can relax enough to get to sleep. Housing crisis, living in a city that has become unlivable, skyrocketing cost of living, vaccine-induced brain damage, bad timing, children with special care needs... yadda, yadda, yadda... I wrote a version of this article with all the details, and it was boring. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of compromises to make, and years before any of it gets better. And that brain damage part never will.

And so I fired up blogger to do two things. And hopefully, in the process, keep serving you all. This blog, for what it is worth, is almost as great an escape for me as the games itself. 

The first is to put a thought in your ear, as it is one that makes a campaign all the much richer. Which is the question, where do people find hope? In a fantasy world as dark as Dungeons & Dragons when it is played by us oldsters, where do people find the charge to keep building those keeps on the borderlands, praying alongside those clerics, and going through life knowing they are one goblin raid away from ruin?

I mean, obviously, the do-gooder brand of PC who hands a farmer a fistful of gold, and slaughters the marauding goblins obviously can do a world of good, but in a world with any verisimiltude, nobody is going to be relying on those just wandering by.

  • Does the existence of clerics and clear signs of existing gods help?
  • Are their faiths that offer a bright picture of life both here and hereafter?
  • Do the people have little rituals that affirm life in the face of the monstrous world they live in?
  • Are there places monsters can't go and things so good that the monsters cannot touch it?
  • Are the nobles of the land truly noble, with the evils of the world around them forcing them to truly live the ideals of valour and chivalry?
  • Are there things everyday peasants know about the cosmos and afterlife that give them certainty we, as humans in a world with distant and silent gods can't have?
  • Or maybe heroes are a part of the natural order of the world, and fate can be trusted to bring them about when the forces of Chaos are stirring?
  • Do people draw strength the fact that their laws, ways, and civilization stands as proof that Law can win over Chaos, and that Chaos is on the run?

 If there is none of this available, and your world really is hopeless, how does it carry on? Is it a bleak hellscape like Elden Ring? or do cruel men thrive on the backs of people whose only comfort is knowing "where there's a whip, there's a way?" I don't find those fantasy worlds very appealing. There's a reason my reviews of Shadow of the Demon Lord and Mörk Borg were so mixed.

It honestly doesn't sound particularly fun to me, and I expect in reality, everyone in those worlds would throw up there hands and be done with things so completely that civilization would be little but crumbling ruins handed over to the monsters.

Know what drives the NPCs to keep facing things every day, and you have the linchpin of their society, and the reason it holds together in a world where town-levelling nightmares stalk the woods just six hexes away. You have what makes them strong, and a sense of how they relate to the gods. And the thing the worst kind of villains would early love to destroy.

I am, myself, as I type my way through the Hour of the Wolf, discover that I am still hopeful. Where the old solutions that one might be expected to try have failed me, I now am looking for alternatives. As an exercise today, I figured out how I could build a pretty decent house for my family - to code - for about $74,000 CAD.. pity there's no land available around here to try that theory out on. But that I am still coming up with ideas, cockamamie and be-hitched or not, suggests to me that I might yet be able to think or wait my way out of this. Just because you can't win by the rules and conventions of the game doesn't mean you can't win. That is a thought that gives me great hope.

And I draw strength from being of service to my family. As long as these crippled hands and feet of mien can still do something to make their lives better, I have a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Knowing what gives a people in your setting hope gives you the essence of those people.

The other reason I am here is to thank you again. Because nothing cleanses the soul like gratitude. This month I have hit a new all-time peak of 24,000 views. That is truly staggering to me that so many people want to hear what I have to say about this quirky hobby of ours. If I can let you know that you mean a lot to me, perhaps I can find the peace in me to get some sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Those without hope can always live for spite and vengeance.