Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Heroics

"And yet their wills did not yield, and they struggled on"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

It is raining as I write this, waiting to greet October in a few days.  The month of September has flown by crazily, mostly due to the fact that I've gotten involved in many different activities or projects I'm attempting to get off the ground.  It's funny that now that the summer is slowly saying farewell and I am getting busier, I decide to come back and to blog once again.

Towards the end of the summer especially, one thought has continued to be on my mind: heroes.  I make quips about fixing the tears in my Spidey suit, or battling the Lizard under the sewers of my township.  In the last month, I started making crossover references (for example, Carnage that is somehow emitting Scarecrow's Fear Toxin pheromones).  Despite all the jokes/references that I make, I have really started to think about what makes a hero, and what characteristics they tend to possess, and I wanted to blog about it and dive into what this means in terms of life and stories and D&D.  So throughout this blog, you will see me referring to myself as 'hero', which basically is short for superhero.  Think in terms of Peter Parker.


While I was sad that I was unable to attend GenCon this year, I wouldn't have traded my August 17th for anything.  It has become a day that stands out clearly in my mind, and I am still wondering about the future outcomes it holds.  I was able to help out somebody else who needed it, and from there lit a fire of continuing to try and do so.  In short, a heroic quality, though I prefer not to be called heroic about it.  I just want to continue helping.  So while I know there were awesome things going down at GenCon, I know that my time was definitely well spent staying home this year.

The first heroic lesson I started learning that day was patience.  Honestly, I felt like I was learning patience a while back, but I feel like I'm learning it even more now.  Sometimes we are forced to wait.  I've turned the patience thing over and over again in my mind, and the theme is seen all over the place in terms of literature and stories.  Luke Skywalker had to be patient and learn to use the Force.  When he didn't, and rushed to confront Vader, he lost his hand and was badly shaken.  Peter Parker has always had to put his own life and his own desires on hold in order to help the greater good.  Samwise Gamgee patiently stuck it out with Frodo, having no idea if he would ever make it back.  Taran, from The Black Cauldron, patiently learned many lessons while growing up and adventuring.  Basically, patience is a trait we see in all sorts of heroes.

In terms of D&D and gaming, I think heroes learn patience by not being rewarding or accomplishing their goals.  The lessons from life can always be applied to characters, but it seems to be easier being a D&D hero and slaying skeletons and exploring dungeons than being patient in the real world for whatever goal one is chasing.  However, as Yoda once said, it is important to focus on the moment, not always be looking to what has yet to happen.  It takes practice, but it is a skill that adds more to life and makes you appreciate that which is around you.

Another huge trait that has been on my mind is that of sacrifice.  I'm going to be honest and say that sacrifice isn't a trait that most people understand at all, mostly because they are never aware of who is sacrificing something for them.  

There are always moments in literature, movies, etc, where the hero has to stop and contemplate if people really need saving.  Humanity is selfish, greedy and unappreciative.  Why bother saving them?  Why bother putting their happiness before the hero's own?

I think there is only one real answer to such a question, and that can basically be summed to love.  It takes a powerful hero to love a stranger and to give up something for a person unknown and unworthy of it.  In Narnia, Aslan lays down his life for Edmund, though the boy has acted selfishly and cruelly the entire time.  In the new Superman remake, Man of Steel, Kal-El willingly fights for the entire population of Earth, despite his own inner struggles and fear of being rejected.


Sacrifice has been a powerful thought and emotion in my own life these last six months.  It's a very personal thing, laying down everything for another, or delaying your own happiness for that of another's well being.

In terms of D&D stories, heroes need to be presented with choices.  Do they reclaim their ship and let the dragon destroy the village?  Or do they confront the dragon, save the village, yet lose their ship to the bottom of the ocean?  

I hope some of these thoughts on heroics bring new inspiration to the character stories being told in campaigns.  In terms of real life, I encourage everybody to go out of their way this week and to do something kind for somebody else.  Send a random text message.  Make a stranger laugh.  Buy Taco Bell and hand it out to somebody random.  These simple acts of kindness will make you the random hero that appears in an instance, and is gone in a flash.

As always, leave your comments below and follow me on Twitter @artificeralf


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