"What happens when a character dies in a per-pay enterprise like this? Should they expect not to? Imagine the furor around a video game costing $59 where character death was permanent. Now multiply that by 100."
Sigh. This makes me sad. The very intention of the "what if" scenario proposes that people have become so fragile, so needy, so entitled that if they were to spend money for the privilege of playing a game, the ensuing tantrum of their dashed privilege would grow so onerous that my resolution would be swept away in a hurricane of screaming, self-righteous hysterics.
Multiply that by 100.
One hundred of what, exactly? 100 commenters on the internet? 100 players? I'm certainly not capable of running 100 players at the same time and I find it impressively unlikely that I would be killing 100 players simultaneously if I was. That would truly be a total party kill, not to be matched in the annals of the game.
But let's imagine that someone has chosen to play in my campaign - and that I've rolled a die, or they have, and as a result they've died. They are so invested in the game, so invested in their character, that they choose to seek compensation for the death of this character through a means that will cause me harm in some manner. Let's further assume that this person's perception of me turns so black over the death of this character (remember, paid for), that they truly, deeply, intensely hate me. We need to multiply something by 100: let's multiply this hatred. What are the possibilities?
Well, I'm on the internet with my real name. It's reasonable to assume that someone truly motivated could choose to seek me out, hunt me down and kill me. This is not the first time I've speculated about something like this. A little over four years ago, I had a little troll who wrote nasty messages and personal threats and a lot of other things, causing me to remember the story of Billy Pilgrim and Paul Lazzaro from Slaughterhouse Five.
So it goes.
My father, who is 80 now, cannot get it into his head even after forty years of my deciding to be a writer that this occupation actually requires that I be, well, publicly known. Just a month ago he was cautioning me in serious tones to "be careful" about who knows me on the internet because there are people out there just waiting to use personal information about me to destroy any chance of my getting a "good job." He is, without a question, a doomsayer of the first order; I remember back in high school, when we first got a Betamax Video Recorder, that my father discouraged us from speaking about it to our friends, arguing basically, "If word gets out that we have one of these, there are people who wouldn't hesitate to break into our house to get it."
Today, my father lives in the same house that I lived in when I was zero. That house, today, is worth around $800,000. It sits amid a bunch of other houses that are also worth one hell of a lot of money - and it always has. We would try to explain to my father that every person in our neighborhood owned a VCR, but that never seemed to get through.
Oh, in case someone is thinking right now, "Why doesn't your father help you?" Well . . . in the original Fun With Dick and Jane, Jane goes to ask her father for money and gets this speech:
Father: "All right. It's the monsoon season . . . and you're standing outside in torn raincoats. Come through this by yourselves and you'll be dry for the rest of your lives. Take money from me and you'll be wet. Soaking wet from now on. Jane, it's the best thing that could happen. Especially for Dick. I'm so happy for both of you. Especially for Dick."(this vid was the best I could find)
Jane: "Dad, Billy is doing his work by candlelight."
Father: "Splendid! So did Abraham Lincoln."
Jane: "How are you both doing."
Father: "Never better! Jane . . . we have sowed all our lives, and we're now reaping the harvest! Reap! Reap! REAP!"
So, basically, I'm not deserving.
Okay, so I've gone around the barn, down to the store, gotten into an argument with the hairdresser next door and now I'm on my way home. 1. I already have a public persona; 2. I've already been not liked; 3. every public persona risks some nutjob turning up some day; 4. Given my upbringing, I ought to be insanely paranoid but I've chosen not to be.
Let's contend with a far more likely scenario. Said player's character dies. Said player is unhappy. Said player shouts about it on the internet, tries to raise x100 angry sentiment against me.
Sorry. I don't see it. First of all, I don't exactly know what horrible thing can be said about me that hasn't already been said. Someone could claim to know something about me that's horrible - but that's already been claimed and it turns out that making shit up on the internet is quite ordinary.
Moreover, I ask the readership: consider if this argument would produce much sympathy:
"I paid $100 to play a role-playing game online and my character was killed. And now I want justice."
Is there a way to add information to that argument that doesn't make the person sound, well . . . I'll refrain from the expletive. I can at least feel reassured that, living in Canada, there's no practical way to bring a grudge suit against me on the basis of "I'm very rich and I like to use the system to fuck with people." The legal system is different here; bringing suit is not just a matter of having money. Moreover, I'd be operating under the legal disclaimer that exists on the Patreon website: so that as long as I follow Patreon's rules, I'm protected. It would be very hard to bring a suit against Patreon at this time and there are much bigger fish in the kettle to contend with if that were the case.
As near as I can tell, this leaves my personal feeling of remorse or regret at killing a player character, given that someone has paid me for the privilege. This leaves my self-esteem and my resolve in the face of pure, unbridled hatred, as I am told that I have committed a sin by running a fair and reasonable game in which a die roll may result in a character running out of hit points and being killed.
In 1985's Lost in America, the character's wife loses all the money the couple has at a Las Vegas Casino - and in one of the most painful scenes ever filmed in the history of American cinema, Albert Brooks, director and writer of the film, spends six minutes arguing with the owner of the casino in a vain attempt to get his money back. I'll link the last four minutes of that conversation.
I don't know what sort of person could watch that scene and identify with Albert Brooks - but if that sort of person wants to give me money to play in my world, that sort of person is going to find that I'm on the casino owner's side.
Imagine the furor.
Yeah. Furor. Imagine it.
I'm just shaking in my boots.