If you take a closer and more critical look at what your character is doing in-game, you might find that much of it both defies common sense and decency. Are you guilty of any of these “sins”?

For years I have been conditioned to do certains things when I play roleplaying games, especially fantasy games like D&D and Pathfinder. Things I don’t pay much mind or don’t give much thought. Many of these things however, when you take a closer and more critical look at them, make absolutely no sense. Most DMs, including myself, let most of these things slide, because this is just some unwritten rule of fantasy games.

Recently I was playing Pathfinder with my friends. We are playing a group of neutral and good aligned heroes, fighting a guerrilla war against the forces of evil. We had set up an ambush and waited for the one of the leaders of an evil sect to arrive. Finally the person we were waiting for arrived, along with the high priest of the sect. Well, to cut it short we fought them both and prevailed. Our characters were tired, wounded and in shock, since the high priest wasn’t supposed to be there and we suspected that our leaders might not like having the high priest murdered.

If you have been indoctrinated as a D&D player, your skills honed and finely tuned by years of adventuring, you can guess what happened next…


Loot the fallen

If you think about it, going through people’s possessions just after you fought and killed them… Is that something a hero would do? Is that a part of being a hero or feeling heroic? Grabbing everything that has at least some minimal monetary value and strip the corpse of any possessions it might have had? Is that something a good or even a neutral aligned character would do? Do they rob the dead, even before the corpses are buried or given a proper funeral?

Yes, of course we do, what other means to we have to get money? It’s not like we have any jobs or a steady income…

For some reason however this seems like completely normal behaviour by players in roleplaying games. When DM’ing I’ve even had, after a long and straining fight against a dragon, questions like: “Can we skin the dragon and make dragon scale armor out of it?”

What, you’ve killed the dragon and now you want to wear it? Really!?

However, if I would show up playing a character that would collect memorabilia from his fallen enemies, like if the character would cut of the earlobes from the fallen foes, I would probably get strange looks from my fellow players, because that behavior is simply barbaric. But wearing your enemies skin, brandishing its weapons and stripping it off every monetary value isn’t.

The loot fallacy

Ok, so you’ve managed to slay the evil warlord and her sorcerer sidekick. You’ve let arrows and bolts of lightning rain upon them as you repeatedly stab them with your swords, axes and spears. We all know what happens to things we burn, stab and hack at, right?

Yes, of course every piece of cloth, armor, shield and weapon is in mint condition and sold at highest possible price when back in town. You only hit the unprotected areas…

This is something I as a DM have often overlooked and paid no heed, after all the players are happy to get the magical items and much needed gold for buying stuff. And isn’t that what this is all about?

But if you think about it, this actually makes no sense. Why would the equipment of a victim stabbed multiple times with a longspear or been pelted with fireballs be in perfect condition? Because it’s magical?


The encumbrance

I once played with a DM that made us watch closely the weight of our equipment and to be honest, that was simply too much bookkeeping to my taste. But I understand why he made us do it, after all, our group was travelling through the Athasian wastelands where this actually mattered.

I have also played with groups where all loot and acquired items seem to be either weightless or be carried around by some invisible servants. At one point we had 10 leather armors, 4 breast-plates and assortment of weapons, all waiting to be sold at the next marketplace. No character was carrying this stuff, it was simply on our group’s loot-list.

Gold and coinage is another thing, 50 pieces of coins weigh 1 pound. Moving a dragon’s hoard of 10.000 coins takes effort, withstanding magical items like bag of holding. Moving 200 pounds of coins is not easy, even if you fill all bags and coffers that your character happens to carry around, it’s still a heavy load to carry.


The narrative effect of hit points

You take damage and loose 65% of your hit points. Blood pours from your wounds and mixes with the sweat in your face. 

Piff, my character is still as efficient and ready to kick some ass, as when it’s at maximum health.

Of course it is, why would being bitten by a large dragon or clubbed by a hill giant have any visual or detrimental effect on your character or it’s equipment? But why don’t bones break or limbs get chopped off? Why does everything above zero hit points mean a full action capacity?

Ok, perhaps this is too realistic approach to things, after all, we’re playing fantasy. But (and that’s a rather large but) we have spells like Regeneration that can have a narrative effect, e.g. grow a lost limb, and hit points (and the loss of them) could have a more narrative effect. That, however, is for the dungeon master to decide. Would it make the game more fun?

One thing though, in Star Wars Saga Edition there was a Condition Track that could be easily modified and added to any fantasy game, especially D&D.

Stranger things?       

Much as I like to play D&D and fantasy games there are aspects that become ever more stranger to me, but that’s how the game has been played and probably will be for years. After all, it’s simply a part of the fun, this deliberate disregard for things that don’t fit in our ideas of what a D&D hero does. This suspension of disbelief is a part of roleplaying and perhaps even more so in D&D. 

After all, roleplaying is supposed to be fun and having to hire an accountant to make sure that you’re not over your carrying capacity is not necessarily everyone’s idea of fun. Therefore we simply look the other way and enjoy the fact of having finally found the +2 Flametongue we’ve been hoping for. Who cares if we needed to pry it from the dead fingers of that elven fighter… 

What's your thoughts on this?

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Thorsteinn Mar

Thorsteinn has for long sailed the Astral Sea, eager to broadcast his heretical gospel to the uninitiated.
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