One of the first things a role player will try to beat into your brain is to always separate player knowledge and character knowledge. It’s one of the most basic tenets of role playing. Just because you know Ner’zhul became the original Lich King, doesn’t mean Sir Awesomeman the Paladin of Stormwind would.
The other night at my weekly D&D game, I came across a variation of the idea that honestly never occurred to me before. The separation of player motivation and character motivation. Our party was trying to get into a ‘restricted area’ to speak to an important official in this Church of Pelor that we were sorta-kinda working for. The high guard decided to cut us off, checked our ‘guest passes’ and declared us “Not supposed to be here.” She was quite snooty about it too.
Now, as the rest of our gaming group was quick to point out, this woman was a high guard in the organization employing us. Killing her would be bad, so we should all use non-lethal methods to subdue her. The group knew this. I knew this. But did my character?
Well, let’s think about it. My character – Scythe – is a revenant (if you’re not familiar with the D&D race, think ‘The Crow’. Not the elemental revenants in Northrend) that was raised by the Raven Queen to hunt down and claim souls for her so he can earn his freedom. He’s a soul-harvesting bounty hunter for the Goddess of Death – I think it is safe to assume he doesn’t do non-lethal.
I went all out on her. Brought my A-game. Some solid hits, a little combat advantage, and one brutal critical hit later and she was lying on the floor covered in her own blood, muttering her final words to her god. Scythe walks over to her and grins, “Pelor has no power where you’re going.” He pulled out his talisman and sent her soul to the Shadowfell to meet his mistress.
I had knowingly killed what should have been an ally to our cause. A high guard that served directly underneath the Church’s council. Why? Because my character had a different motivation. His freedom was more important than sparing some pain-in-the-butt guard that decided to pull a sword on us because our hall pass was invalid.
I think it’s safe to say that no one else in my group agreed with my actions. This was a stupid decision that is surely going to cause a lot of issues for our characters in the near future. As we ended the session for the night I smiled and looked at our Dungeon Master and said, “That was a mistake wasn’t it?”
He smiled back and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget: “Wil Wheaton knew not to split the party. Aeofel didn’t.”
I can not wait for our next game.